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Viral

By: Alina Chan,Matt Ridley
Narrated by: Gavin Osborn
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Summary

Understanding how COVID-19 started is more important than we know for the future of humankind.  

Determining whether the virus came from nature or from a lab will help us to safeguard against the next pandemic.

This disease will for ever punctuate modern history. It has led to the deaths of millions, sickened hundreds of millions and affected the lives of almost every person on the planet. We now know that COVID is here to stay.

Genetic engineering expert Dr Alina Chan and renowned science writer Matt Ridley examine the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, using their formidable skills to scrutinise arguments and rigorously analyse the sprawling data. Viral is a fascinating account that takes in pangolins, horseshoe bats, internet sleuths and misleading scientific papers. It details the evidence and investigates hypotheses for the virus origin, chief among them a potential laboratory leak or a natural spillover.

Science has made great strides over the last decades. Chan and Ridley give an insight into the proliferating pathogen research and virus-hunting around the world. Whatever the source of the virus, the world needs to adopt new policies and strategies to prevent or mitigate future outbreaks.

Set in the caves and mineshafts, food markets and wildlife smugglers’ stores, laboratories and databases of China and elsewhere, Viral is a pause-resister that plays like a detective novel and goes deeper into the deepest mystery of the day than any other work.

This is the book on the search for the origin of COVID-19.

©2021 Alina Chan and Matt Ridley (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"The result is a viral whodunnit that is sure to appeal to armchair detectives." (Mark Honigsbaum, Observer)

"The book collates a series of circumstantial but damning points in favour of the lab-leak hypothesis. It opens with a cloak-and-dagger scene of a BBC reporter trying to reach a mine in Mojiang, a rural area in southwest China.... The book has dozens of tantalising facts.... The book, fairly, does not conclude that the lab leak hypothesis is definitely true, merely that it is highly possible, and I agree.... I hope the questions that Chan and Ridley raise are answered more fully, one way or another." (Tom Chivers, Times)

"Both journalists and armchair detectives interested in the mystery of the coronavirus were discovering Chan as a kind of Holmes to our Watson. She crunched information at twice our speed, zeroing in on small details we’d overlooked, and became a go-to for anyone looking for spin-free explications of the latest science on Covid-19." (Rowan Jacobsen, Boston Magazine)

What listeners say about Viral

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important primer

A valuable, clinical read on the subject of Sars2 source, if you read nothing else.

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VITAL... A Must Read

Great book, well written and brimming with eye opening facts and data. They try to remain balanced but difficult in the face of overwhelming evidence

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Viral is good recap of the origins of covid 19

The book is a good recap of events around origins of Covid 19. It could be covered in a long form article with references.

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  • 02-01-22

More smoking guns than the battle of the Somme

Fabulous book. Easy to listen to. Helped by a good down to earth explanation of some quite tricky scientific ideas. I did not need the lay person explanations but it was helpful for my partner who isn’t in the field. We enjoyed listening to this.

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Compelling even for the lay person

Very clear and compelling documentary of the respiratory virus evolution from the death of Mojiang Miners in 2012 through to the current Pandemic. Pretty technical in places but allows a lay person to truly understand the subterfuge, delay and obfuscation around the publication of the 8 splinter SARS viruses that is pretty much a blueprint of COVID-19 today. Make your own mind up on the smoking gun.

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Not bat-shit crazy; a fantastic book

A very thorough exploration of the Covid-19 lab leak hypothesis. About to start my second listen

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Very detailed

Detail is probably good, but a non-scientist could find themselves a bit out of depth or bogged down. The structure of the book is to lay out ALL the evidence in the first 11 chapters and then in chapters 12 and 13 lay out, as in a court of law, the case for the two main hypotheses, a) spillover or b) lab leak. Spillover is the null hypothesis. We know that this sort of Sars virus comes originally from a bat (living in a cave in south China), and the 'natural' explanation is that at some point a human got close enough to an infected bat to catch the virus and then pass it on to other humans. This sort of passage has happened many times. The problem is that no-one has been able to map out this path, so far, after much searching, for Covid 19.

The other serious explanation, Lab leak, is a bit controversial (now that 11 million plus have died) but it is the alternative to a 'natural' spill-over. The idea would be that technicians futzing around with the virus to see what sort genetic mutation might gain them a bit of 'functionality', might let some of the material leak out of the lab, or infect themselves and then go shopping in town, and pass it on to a few fellow citizens. The evidence here is that there is a lab that specialises in bat viruses in Wuhan, they did some very secretive and downright dishonest manouvres after Septermber 2019, disembling, hiding and denying facts that subsequently emerged. The relevant bat-caves are 1000 km south of Wuhan, and some miners died there in 2012, the samples were stored in the Wuhan lab. Actually, just writing this out makes it feel that the authors we straining to be cautious, but the lab-based source seems (from this account) to be far the more likely explanation.

Nobody is suggesting that China did this on purpose. Indeed, the book points out that there is a sad irony here: the objective of the lab was to do reasearch that would protect the human race from potential natural pandemics...but they may have ended up actually causing, or at least precipitating, exactly what they were trying to avoid.

The fact that SO MANY PEOPLE have died makes this idea an absolute horror...I guess that is why the authors are so cautious to build the evidence and avoid passing absolute judgement themselves.

Narration. This is quite a difficult book to audio, to be frank. Lots of numbers, references etc.

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Important book

Well researched, intelligently written. This feels like an important book. This is THE book on the origins of COVID and everyone should read it, particularly the chapters arguing for and against a lab leak and the cogent argument regarding the shifting burden of proof. Congratulations to the authors on a fantastic read. Hope it leads, at the very least, to some reforms in virus research.

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Compelling, balanced and quite frankly, heroic

Fascinating from start to finish. Let's hope that, despite China's continued cover up, we can learn from the mistakes that were made

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Viral keeps you enthralled

Loved it very well written and informative. Leaves you thinking.Good for thought into the future.