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The White Plague

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,684 Ratings  ·  230 Reviews
From Science fiction grandmaster Frank Herbert, creator of the Dune universe, comes this novel of bioterrorism and gendercide.

What if women were an endangered species?

It begins in Ireland, but soon spreads throughout the entire world: a virulent new disease expressly designed to target only women. As fully half of the human race dies off at a frightening pace and life on
Paperback, Reprint Edition, 448 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Tor Books (first published August 21st 1982)
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William F. DeVault
Aug 05, 2007 William F. DeVault rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the general public
I actually prefer this book to Herbert's legendary "Dune". Why? Because it speaks in and of a world I live in.

Not cience fiction in the bastardized form we see today, but a true "speculative fiction" page-turner. A well-written story of bio-terrorism that gets out of hand that not only deals with the detective story of how to stop the plague, but what effects will society and politics see out of it as the targeted disease breaks out of the Middle East and ravages all corners of the world?

I am g
I absolutely loved this book. I already knew Herbert was a master of the genre, a man that has achieved in writing few have achieved, and I knew he wrote the "Dune" series, but when I took The White Plague off the shelve, I really didn't make the connection between Frank Herbert the author of this book, and THE Frank Herbert.

Good thing I realised it at the middle of the book, when I took another look to see who wrote this amazing story, and I was like : "oh. now it makes sense. now you tell me.
Frustrating. Herbert is great at big ideas and thoroughly thinking them through, showing how each and every aspect of life and society might be impacted (see Dune).

This novel has another great idea, that of a man-made pandemic. It delves even deeper than a typical end-of-the-world story, though, by setting the villian and a few other characters on a long, quiet walk through what's left of Ireland, showing how the plague has warped life. He also manages to show how Ireland is so immersed in its
Mar 29, 2014 Leonard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Molecular biologist John Roe O'Neill is on vacation in Ireland when a bomb explodes and kills his wife and two children. The trauma splits his personality and he splices genes into viruses and contaminates bacteria with them, creating a disease that targets women and speeds up their aging. When he releases the bacteria in Ireland, England and Libya, the plague begins to spread around the world and governments have to close their border and expel these countries' nationals. And Barrier Command un ...more
Apr 15, 2011 Oana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 02, 2012 Ivana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Introduction to the novel would be something like this: A brilliant American Irish scientists is driven mad when his wife dies as a result of IRA bomb attack. So, he creates a virus that will kill all women on Ireland...Will the virus spread?

There are a lot of fascinating themes in this novel and it functions great as a thriller as well. The way that the history of the Irish is presented is just brilliant. It is not a stereotypical view of the Irish. He really goes into the dept, exploring frust
I expected better from Herbert.

What I liked: The disease. I liked that the invention and distribution of the disease was described as the investigators figured it out rather than as the Madman was doing it. I liked the idea of the targeted disease. The politics. The way the different countries failed to come together in the face of a world-wide catastrophe was plausible. The turn against science... while only briefly touched on, the way the angry masses turned on scientists was believable.

William Crosby
Jul 23, 2014 William Crosby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The basic tenor/plot can be summarized by this line in the book:
"What did I expect? He wondered. Not this."

Several issues examined:
+If the world faces major calamity, will the governments fail and basic brutal survival prevail and the veneer of civilization disintegrate?
+Nature and critique of terrorism and the purpose and distortions of revenge.
+Do people consider the ramifications and ethics of science?
+Church's role in society.
+Tedious replication of retribution and the endless double-thinki
John Holder
Jul 11, 2015 John Holder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marvelous if somewhat (unavoidably) dated... a morality piece in sci-fi/speculative fiction clothing. The science is meticulous, given the time period in which it was written. Herbert brings his epic sense, as rendered so masterfully in the Dune books, down to Earth on a slightly smaller scale. Recommended.
Oct 03, 2014 Patty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gets pretty thick, towards the end - but still raises quite a few questions which aren't contemplated nearly enough in this world.

A great read for anyone interested in science, philosophy, and/or medical ethics.
Jul 09, 2015 Charlotte rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone needing to make a book safe or prop up a wobbly table
Disclaimer: I gave up halfway through, so this really only talks about the first half of the book.*

The main reason I didn't like this book, and the reason I eventually stopped reading, was that in this book, both the bad guy AND the author treat women as props whose deaths only matter in the affect they have on men. In-universe, the bad guy's motivation for creating the plague was: "I'm going to kill all the women so the whole world can experience the pain I had!!!" Like what? Do you somehow not
Kristi Richardson
"The difference between sentiment and being sentimental is the following:
Sentiment is when a driver swerves out of the way to avoid hitting a
rabbit on the road. Being sentimental is when the same driver, when
swerving away from the rabbit hits a pedestrian."

Frank Herbert's The White Plague holds up remarkably well over the decades. I recently took a class in genetics and the plague the "Madman" creates seems completely plausible to me.

The story starts out with John Roe O'Neill in Ireland doin
Oct 17, 2012 Ken rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE WHITE PLAGUE is a novel of meticulously calculated revenge. While in Ireland with his family, a man loses his wife and two children to a terrorist's bomb. He is a molecular biologist, and in his grief and ensuing madness, develops and unleashes a deadly pandemic which only targets women.

This is a very long novel, but the best section features John O'Neil, the biologist, and the terrorist who planted the bomb, playing an endless game of psychological 'cat and mouse' while on a trek across Ire
Apr 19, 2013 Nightwishel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Там, където някога е кипял живот, сега е бездушна пустош, лишена от чувства. Бродят мъже с безизразни лица, отнетата възможност за бъдеще ги докарва твърде близо до лудостта.

След като политическа лудост, водеща до безумен тероризъм, отнема най-близките същества на микробиолога Джон Роу О'Нийл, той в знак на отмъщение разработва опасно биологично оръжие, наречено „бялата чума“, покосяваща само жени.
Основно действието представлява един дълъг и мрачен преход, осветяван от размисли и разговори, ко
Dec 05, 2008 Peter rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Frank Herbert fans
I dug this one out for a change of pace. I'd looked it over before, but hadn't read it. But I'm usually desperate for new reading material, so I decided to give it a try.

The basic plot is that a crazed scientist develops a plague designed to infect and kill women. It gets worldwide distribution, and so all of womankind faces the possibility of extinction - soon to be followed by all men, of course.

It's set in the modern day, or possibly in the near future - but so near that there's nothing to di
Jan 18, 2015 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like medical thrillers
Shelves: audio
(Listened to on CD.)

A bit over-written at times -- par for the course for Frank Herbert, I guess. The premise of the story is quite compelling, if frightening. It's a rather pessimistic view about morality and mankind, but it is entirely too reasonable. I wanted to be able to find something that I could point too and say, "That couldn't really happen." But people can be just selfish and horrible, and Herbert illustrates that well.

My main problem with the book is Herbert's treatment of women. The
Stephanie W
I really dug the premise of this book and the realism of the probleem. A crazed man with powerful motivations creates a plague that quickly wipes out all women and very slowly all men. Eventually, the modern world turns into a very savage place and finally a matriarchal society for the single woman left to every then thousand living men.

Even though I liked the plot, it occurred to me after reading this that I do not like Frank Herbert's style. I didn't mind the constant jumping of scenes, but I
Feb 25, 2014 Robert rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly, disappointingly dreadful.

The characters were flat, unlifelike and none incited any sympathy in me. The story would have looked vaguely interesting on a chalk-board, but was not fleshed out interestingly.

The book read like it had never been read. By the author. Full of idiotic verbosity.

A bore.

I loved the entire Dune series: perhaps my expectations were too high. Or perhaps his style of political generalities and semi-religious drama was transformed into, or revealed as, vapid vague
Jun 17, 2011 Debi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical-thriller
A man invents a plague that kills only women. The plague is released in certain parts of the world. And then spreads. The whole world is changed as men scramble to find a cure, find the man who did this and protect the women that are left from contracting the plague.
The book could probably have been a bit shorter, part of the story was drawn out probably more than it needed to be. But overall, a good book, with some suspense in it, wondering if any women would survive for there to be a world in
Jan 02, 2015 Martti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 26, 2009 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting "end of the world" sci-fi novel, that deals with human caused disaster. Since it was one person that caused the disaster - sort of on purpose - we would probably call it a terrorist novel these days. But the novel delves into what happens when one person who tries to strike back at terrorists (the IRA in this case) goes tragically wrong.

I was not a big fan of Frank Herbet's Dune (I know blasphemy). But I loved this book.
Feb 19, 2013 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, read-2013
An IRA bomb kills the wife and children of an American microbiologist. He goes crazy and engineers a disease that only kills women and releases it in Ireland (for revenge), England (for oppressing the Irish and giving them a cause), and Libya (for training and supplying the IRA terrorists). Of course diseases don't respect political boundaries and soon nearly the entire world is infected.

A fascinating "what if?" character-driven story. Much of the novel takes place in Ireland, and Herbert does a
Andrew Georgiadis
“The Irish always seem to me like a pack of hounds dragging down some noble stag.”

John O’Neill wasn’t an evil man. But kill his wife and children as collateral damage in an IRA terrorist attack in 1970s era Ireland, and he will morph into something unrecognizable. He will work tirelessly, drawing from a genius in molecular genetics, being fueled by rage and pain, to concoct a bacterial vector for the most destructive virus in human history. It’s target: women, without which humans cannot
Sep 24, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: Any review of a Frank Herbert novel will inevitably draw comparisons to Dune. I apologize in advance, but I'm not immune to this effect.

The White Plague. Summed up: a likable novel with enough intrigue, depth, intricacy, plot turns, and the pacing to keep anyone interested, and little enough of them to be memorable. An amusing albeit disposable work. The premise: a man's family is killed as innocent bystanders in an IRA bombing; he goes mad and develops an infectious plague that kill
Richard Pebbleston
Another one of Frank Herbert's lesser known masterpieces. A brilliant and well-thought-out story, that is well ahead of its time (it was published in 1982). It follows an intriguing tale of revenge of a genius who witnessed the senseless bombing of his family, who then engineers a virus to make the world pay. It shines on many levels, not just the story but the deeper ethical topics that it touches on. It asks many important questions and manages to highlight humanity's infinite possibility for ...more
Aug 29, 2015 Seekordsiis rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I give up. I cant understand, who the author hated the most when writing this: the Irish, the men, or the women. Neither am I sure he has ever talked to a real live woman. ...more
Dee Bitner
Apr 03, 2016 Dee Bitner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frank Herbert has faced as many accusations of sexism as Robert Heinlein, and with good reason. I don't make excuses for the time period: sexism is sexism, regardless. But I do give Herbert credit for trying to make "strong female characters" for the age - I would infinitely rather read Bene Gesserit than deal with the women in Stranger in a Strange Land, and I love the latter. And he gives us a few strong women in this one. It's too bad he kills them off early... along with all the other named ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Denae rated it it was ok
Shelves: random-discovery
Frank Herbert went a little off the deep end in this one in a bizarre and somewhat disturbing way. Put it this way; he has a character release a virus designed to kill all Irish females. Seriously. If you have a lot of free time and read very quickly, it's worth reading for the strangeness factor, but not worth a serious investment.
Dyane Forde
This book was a challenge to read, and not entirely in a good way. I found it dry and full of science-babble and characters I didn't care much about. In fact, the priest and The Boy (and even Joseph in his own way) were the most interesting characters, and I thought their story-line the most moving. I basically read the story to find out what happened to them. Some characters who I thought were supposed to gain my sympathy I found irritating instead (Kate, especially). John, the main character, ...more
Dec 21, 2012 Diane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't get through it. A lot of it was technical, which I don't really understand. Think about it. Why get into the nitty-gritty of biology? If the reader knows a lot about the subject they will be inclined to point out all of your inaccuracies. If they don't know anything about it they will be bored to tears. Did not like.
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Frank Herbert was a critically acclaimed and commercially successful American science fiction author.

He is best known for the novel Dune and its five sequels. The Dune saga, set in the distant future and taking place over millennia, dealt with themes such as human survival and evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics, and power, and is widely considered to be among the classi
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