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Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  909 ratings  ·  133 reviews
A new virus descended on the human species in 2019 wreaking unprecedented havoc. Finding out where it came from and how it first jumped into people is an urgent priority, but early expectations that this would prove an easy question to answer have been dashed. Nearly two years into the pandemic, the crucial mystery of the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is not only unresolved but has ...more
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published November 16th 2021 by Harper
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Average rating 4.36  · 
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JanB
Jun 05, 2022 rated it it was amazing
How serendipitous that this book became available from the library as I’m home recovering from Covid, my souvenir of a trip overseas. (Thankfully, a mild case). Yep, I avoided it for 2+ years despite babysitting for my little germ-carriers...er, grandchildren.....I had to go overseas to get it...and now I'm missing our planned trip to the mountains.

So, it was with much interest that I dove into this book. Here we are, 2+ years into the pandemic, and there are still more questions than answers. C
...more
Gerhard
Dec 28, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, non-fiction
First of all, there is no ‘smoking gun’ revelation in this book. I was startled to realise by the end (at the 65% mark of the Kindle version) that everything relayed by Alina Chan and Matt Ridley is common knowledge, especially if you have been following all of the debates, exposures and revelations on Twitter. I must say that what this book does do very well is collate the wide swathe of this information, scattered as it has been over two years now, and present it in a highly readable, lucid an ...more
Jenna is buying a house and mostly too busy for GR ❤ ❀  ❤
A fascinating, real life detective story searching for the origin of SARS-CoV-2

I've been hesitant to read books concerning the origin of the virus that caused the pandemic because there are so many conspiracy theories. I don't trust just anyone to write a factual book about where this virus came from. I only want to hear what scientists in the fields of virology, epidemiology, genomics, and similar have to say.

Co-author of this book, Alina Chan, is a molecular biologist who specializes in gene
...more
Jun Y
Nov 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
Frankensteined, Just leaked or Natural?

In the early months of 2020, as the world dragged itself into a pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the now famous biologist Alina Chan was doing some serious work. She discovered that by the time SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in late 2019, “it was already pre-adapted to human transmission to an extent similar to late epidemic SARS-CoV.” Moreover, it was “evolving more slowly than one newly arrived in the human species from another animal normally would”, im
...more
Pal
Nov 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Soon two years into the Covid19-pandemic this is quite surely the most important book on the topic to date. Polarisation, lockdowns and political travesties notwithstanding, without coming to the root of the Origin of Covid we will remain badly equipped for the next big one.

This book is not only important to put together the puzzle around the real source of this disease that changed our lives, but it’s also extremely well-written. While a science book, it almost serves as a detective novel even,
...more
Ben Rogers
This was an amazing book.

I really enjoyed all the research and investigations this book went into the origins of COVID-19.

Very interesting and fascinating book.

Great journalism.

4.8/5
Bill Weaver
Dec 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If this were a classic monster movie, they could add a chapter at the end where the villagers storm the Wuhan Institute of Virology with torches and pitchforks, but alas, this is the far more terrifying real world, not folklore. Despite the optimism of the authors that ‘the truth will out’, I’m pessimistic that truth will be found in this ‘post-truth’ world. I am not an expert in genetics but am a fairly well-versed information specialist, so I have some expertise with communication. William S. ...more
John Devlin
May 28, 2022 rated it liked it
It’s all here: the Chinese lies, the scientists glaring omissions, the absence of any animal host - though previous epidemics have always found the animal host, the appearance of Covid in an almost perfectly modeled state -as if it hadn’t come from another creature, Peter Dazack and his emails to DARPA asking for a grant to insert furrin cleavages into bats.

It’s all here but the smoking gun, and that’s bc the Chinese tossed the gun into the river.
Don Lim
Dec 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An important preface: keep in mind that I have not kept up with the latest developments between the zoonosis and lab leak hypotheses.

Dr. Chan and Viscount Ridley have provided the most up-to-date information on the major credible theories related to the origins of the COVID-19 virus.

On the zoonosis side, they examine the Wuhan wet market. They follow the frozen meat hypothesis, dubbed the Popsicle Origin. Among live animals, they look for potential pangolin origins, civet origins, and lastly, b
...more
Rick Wilson
Jan 24, 2022 rated it liked it
Very interesting book. This book definitely challenged and changed some of my beliefs about the origins of Covid, whereas I went into this book mostly thinking spillover event, now I would say I’m a lot less certain in that and at the same time totally clueless about what the actual origins would be. Granted I went into reading this thinking that the “lab leak” hypothesis was mostly ranting Twitter conspiracy. So big marks for presenting the information as credible.

The book is a bit dense with
...more
Emil O. W. Kirkegaard
Mar 26, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I didn't learn about this book until recently, but it was published already back in November 16, 2021. In the months since that, there has been no improvement in the evidence for natural origin. Passing time and the failure to find realistic animal origins is evidence for non-natural origin, i.e., any sort of lab leak or release model. This book is mainly about the more plausible, less sinister accidental lab leak with following cover-up by Chinese government-model. I would probably give this mo ...more
Jocelynn Pearl, PhD
Nov 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Alina Chan and Matt Ridley have written an important and brave account of the events that transpired surrounding the world's search for the origins of COVID. It is an engaging read that weaves fine details and nuances, everything from sequencing data, to tweets from leaders, to codon usage. No easy feat. I think this is one of the most important books published in 2021. ...more
Andy
Jun 04, 2022 rated it liked it
This book is unfortunately not a crazy conspiracy theory. It is too much "inside baseball" though about both virologists and journalists. A good magazine article (e.g. from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists) would make the same points adequately: we just don't know what turned a virus that usually causes the common cold into a global killer; we may never know because the proper investigations were not done promptly; public communication about the whole thing has been a big mess; the COVID-19 pan ...more
Boy Blue
The only thing that can match the speed of Covid-19 vaccine development in the pharmaceuticals industry is the speed of the publishing industry in churning out books about Covid-19.


And old muggins over here is the sucker who finds them fascinating and wants to read them all.


I struggle to categorise this one, it's a sort of whodunnit detective mystery coupled with a few science lessons, an ode to Twitter, and a light exploration of the social and political forces shaping the globe.


Meanwhile the a
...more
Anita
Nov 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sue
Dec 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I almost cannot speak. Two things I learned: 1. In the name of science is a mortal sin. 2. The “educated” are not very smart and have little common sense.

The book is well researched and written but know that it will cause an emotional response from anyone with a heart. I remain “changed” forever. The casual way that scientists discuss life helps me really see who the privileged are. Our tax dollars fund these narcissistic people. We should actually defund them all!!! Why are we spending more mo
...more
Matthew
Nov 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion, this book should be read by everyone affected by the COVID 19 pandemic.

And yep, that is pretty much everyone.

This is an outstanding summary of the known situation as it pertains to the potential origins of the pandemic.

I thought I had followed the story, but this book brings a welcome clarity (such as it stands as of Nov 2021), organization, and depth that has sadly been lacking.

For those looking for a definitive answer here, you will be disappointed. Despite this, I consider th
...more
Joshua Polanski
Mar 13, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading in any information literacy course for high schoolers.
Ronnie
Dec 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Whew! If there is any book which you should read re Covid 19 this is it. Both authors write with unceasingly explicit writing that is very common sensical and adroit. Burden Tennis...This is the best new word that amplifies and shows where we are at and how to has hampered and helped to find out what has happened and why. Science. Biologically engineered viruses.....Naturally occurring deadly viruses....Animals-humans-plants- medicines-secret workings on cells-Its all there. Read this if you dar ...more
Jack Jacobson
Nov 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Read It

An actual scientific evaluation of possible factors that are responsible for the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Required reading for those who wish to go beyond news reports and understand the underlying issues.
Tretiakov Alexander
Dec 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Book of the year! Yet another amazing book by Matt Ridley.
Mahrya Q
Aug 06, 2022 rated it really liked it
Obviously, this book isn't going to give an entirely conclusive answer as to the origin of COVID-19. It does, however, present the cases for and against natural spillover events vs. lab-leak possibilities. I will refrain from expressing my own belief about what happened so as not to ruin the book, but I think the most likely scenario of how the pandemic began will be clear to you after reading it.

Awesome read. Many times it gave me goosebumps it was so chilling. It did take me a long time to rea
...more
Wing
Feb 02, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Using open-source intelligence, freedom of information requests, leaked but verified communications, 5th Viscount Ridley and Dr Alicia Chan join forces to highlight what the China-WHO report has admitted: namely “no firm conclusion therefore about the role of the Huanan market in the origin of the outbreak, or how the infection was introduced into the market, can currently be drawn” (p.88) and “the virus was well adapted to human transmission from the moment it was first detected” (p.98). Expert ...more
James Andrews
As of this writing in February 2022, we are more than 2 years out from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the origins of the outbreak remain a mystery. Whether the virus spread to humans naturally via wildlife handled in Wuhan, or it spread via an accidental leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the available evidence remains inconclusive.

My feelings on this book remain similarly inconclusive.

The authors of Viral believe that the most likely cause of the COVID-19 pandemic was an ac
...more
Sita Vasan
Excellent reporting on a timely subject. The lower review is due to prior editing and difficult to follow writing style, however, this is well worth the read to discover about Covid 19 origin.
Nuno
Aug 29, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, non-fiction
For anyone that has some interest in the COVID pandemic, this is definitely a book that should not be skipped.

The authors take a chronological approach to the hypotheses regarding the origin of the current pandemic. The initial, default hypothesis is that sars cov 2 originated from a natural spillover from an animal - likely a bat - either directly or via an intermediary. Meanwhile, new information regarding the initial stages of the pandemic emerged that suggested that a lab leak could equally
...more
Clare Anderson
Jan 07, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Amazing! The organization of so much information that was published along with details uncovered by people searching the internet for the truth to this pandemic is astonishing. These two authors are to be commended for their ability to organize these facts and explain to laymen the implications of the science in such a way not to be trying to blame or present a conclusion for which there is no direct evidence. And they did it with wit and common sense as to some of the more outlandish things tha ...more
Joan
Mar 04, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extremely important book, the result of compiling detailed research from many sources, conducted against the background of obstacles laid by the Wuhan scientists and officials withholding scientific research findings, changing names of viruses, not mentioning in publications the most relevant viral genomes and other tactics which leads to the strong suspicion if not conclusion that the Covid-19 pandemic was the result of laboratory leakage.
The alternative theory of natural origin is e
...more
Andy May
Jan 03, 2022 rated it it was amazing
The other reviews are quite good and I agree with them, but one additional important point the book makes:

Chan and Ridley do not accuse China or WIV of deliberately releasing the virus, in their opinion the release, if it happened, was accidental. However, the absurd secrecy imposed by the Chinese government is odd, if they have nothing to hide. The location of the cave where RaTG13 came from is well known but remains strictly off limits to journalists, scientists, and people who try and approac
...more
Stef
Mar 29, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rel-hist-geog
Conclusion: we still don't know because too many things were kept hidden and too many people particularly media remain incurious. We need more transparency, more research, more regulations, etc etc to prevent the next pandemic. Ya think?

Frustrating read, but I still appreciate the amount of work that was put into this, and the courage to publish it.

Homeschooling notes: Read the epilogue first and the timeline, peruse through the bibliography for primary sources, and then read from the beginning
...more
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“Tens of thousands of animals, both wild and domesticated, have reportedly been sampled across China. None has tested positive for the virus.” 1 likes
“the virus causing the pandemic was evolving more slowly than one newly arrived in the human species from another animal normally would. This implied it was already well adapted to human beings from the moment it was first detected in Wuhan in December 2019.” 1 likes
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