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The White Plague

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  3,805 ratings  ·  181 reviews

The White Plague, a marvelous and terrifyingly plausible blend of fiction and visionary theme, tells of one man who is pushed over the edge of sanity by the senseless murder of his family and who, reappearing several months later as the so-called Madman, unleashes a terrible plague upon the human race---one that zeros in, unerringly and fatally, on women.

Mass Market Paperback, 501 pages
Published December 1st 1983 by Berkley (first published August 21st 1982)
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Evil Inside
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William F. DeVault
Aug 05, 2007 William F. DeVault rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Leonard
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
Ana
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....more
Noiresque
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...more
Clackamas
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.

What...more
Peter
Dec 05, 2008 Peter rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Ken
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...more
Andrew Georgiadis
“The Irish always seem to me like a pack of hounds dragging down some noble stag.”
~Goethe


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...more
Nightwishel
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...more
Oana
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andy
May 26, 2013 Andy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like medical thrillers
(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...more
William Crosby
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...more
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...more
Debi
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...more
Andy
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.
Denae
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.
Diane
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.
Robert
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...more
Anna Engel
[2.75 stars]

The premise of the book is fascinating -- and scary. A molecular biologist creates a plague that causes men to suffer some symptoms, but kills women with what seems to be 100% mortality. Men are also carriers of the disease. The result is a worldwide breakdown as the fabric of society is completely torn apart. The entire world is affected politically, geographically, socially, and genetically.

I very much enjoyed the first third of "White Plague," from John O'Neill's descent into madn...more
Andrew
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...more
Kelsey
It took me a long time to finish this book, and I had a like-hate relationship with it the entire time. However, I think a huge part of the problem was a mismatch between what I wanted (and expected) the book to be and what Herbert actually wrote. I don't mean that he failed to make good on his promises to the reader. I mean that I had preconceived notions about how I thought the plot would be handled, based on reading a summary of the book elsewhere.

The story is about a man who is in Ireland fo...more
Michael
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...more
Ivana
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...more
Danielle
This was not done in the way I thought it would be. And that's fine too! I don't know how fully I understood the scientific explinations of things(in other words, it gets kinda science-y), but it wasn't detrimental to the overall story. And it was a compelling story. It could be a fairly good movie if it was done right. I was even able to think about some things that weren't even brought up that would probably end up happening in that new world in regards to the very few women left. I would not...more
Noah W
The White Plague depicts a doomsday scenario of a worldwide plague that targets female DNA structure while leaving men unscathed. This results in a rapidly decrease in the world's female population.

This book contains some great points for conversation:

- The importance of bio-medical ethics, namely the importance of Christians actively engaging in the medical profession.
- How epidemics have the potential to massively redraw cultural lines, sociological structures, and morality.
- How Machiavellia...more
Ketan Shah
A man who's family is killed by an IRA bomb,unleashes a virus designed to kill all human females. He wanders incognito through a world descending into chaos.Frank Herbert makes this a very personal,character driven novel,with some keen insights into the Irish psyche.He also manages to paint a picture of quiet desperation as research teams around the world struggle to find a cure.If you only know of him through this Dune series ,do yourself a favour and pick up this other novels,like this one.The...more
Bria
Maybe I would have liked this a little better if it hadn't been Frank Herbert. I know better than to expect his every book to be a masterpiece, but I still have pretty high expectations, and this book seemed pretty standard. It seemed the perfect opportunity to contemplate certain issues and concepts about gender relations, but that all seemed to take a backseat to whatever pet little psychological interest Frank took a liking to. Sure, there's sort of some vague mention here and there about som...more
Erika
This reminded me of early Le Carrie . . . and it had all the right ingredients for a good winter read, some apocalyptic bioterror-ish fantasy, psychological manipulation and dueling, political intrigue and machinations, cloak-and-dagger, and Ireland, lots of Ireland. It gets three stars only, not because the science is dated (which after all is not his fault), but because he gets a bit heavy handed on the IRA and on the Church in the last 100 pages, because Father Flannery could have been drawn...more
Colin Gray
An almost apocalyptic tale set in Ireland where women become almost revered due their scarcity. A man wronged and driven almost to madness by the senseless killing of his family by a car bomber, brings a plague to the world that kills women in his vision of "letting them feel what it feels like to lose a woman"

I found the book riviting, and commend it if you're into a bit of a dark future.
Thomas Strömquist
A good idea for a suspense/apocalypse novel; someone with terrible ability to do so decides to take revenge on the whole world when tragedy strikes his family. The result is surprisingly unengaging, mostly due to weak characterization (i.e. you do not care too much what happens to these people) and also, with the subject matter, the story does not age too well.
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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...more
More about Frank Herbert...
Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1) Dune Messiah (Dune Chronicles, #2) Children of Dune (Dune Chronicles, #3) The Great Dune Trilogy  God Emperor of Dune (Dune Chronicles, #4)

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