sh_ng's review

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3.0

this read more like a memoir than a series of essays. the best parts were when the author was reflecting on aspects of viruses and biology that connect to or metaphorize the way the covid-19 pandemic played out in the US. i also really liked his thoughts on his relationship with HIV and its reverberating effects on the gay community. i sometimes feel as though we are living in a nadir in modern history in terms of scientific literacy so it's nice to see someone identify and say clearly (without belittling the reader) what viruses are vs how we conceive of them culturally. i liked his thoughts on "living with" viruses. ummm i would hope that most ppl know this but we literally can't live without viruses! there are ongoing theories that giant viruses played a role in shaping eukaryotic evolution ie humans could literally not exist without viruses infecting and shaping microbial genomes millions of years ago. in the book, the author mentions how herpesvirus, a stigmatized yet ubiquitous virus, helps the human immune response in fending off other more harmful viruses. the majority of viruses infect bacteria and are "harmless" to humans. the only virus to ever be eradicated in human populations was done via vaccines, where we literally take the virus particles into our bodies to prevent infection. to even be "safe" from viruses we need viruses.

i liked the way the book dismantled metaphors of "war" against the virus and humans being "the real virus" on the planet. viruses are not beings with intent, they are just pieces of genetic material. the author goes into this while acknowledging the need for masking and protective measures that better value the lives of all humans, especially the most vulnerable. i really liked that he did not compromise on this stance throughout the book, even when he was saying that at this point, the virus is with us and we must live with it. he talks a lot about race and class but i wish he went more into the parts about disabled bodies or "othered" bodies and how viruses expose how we view these bodies. he basically mentioned it explicitly in the "on war" section but didn't go any further.

the book got to be very epistolary and intertextual at times which i think it was meant to be -- i feel like a lot of writing from this time period (literally only 2 years ago lol) was purposefully very fragmentary -- but i felt like those parts bogged it down and i had to skim through most of the "journal entry" parts of the book. i did like the insights into his covid-19 working group, which felt personal and unique. lastly i was annoyed (generally, and not just at this book) at how much he brought up "LATE CAPITALISM"!!!! as a bogeyman. this book was not really explicitly about capitalism so i felt like he could have just left the reader with all the prior conclusions without going on and on about capitalism. like he doesn't even name the specific mechanisms of capitalism that are the cause of the problems he points out, he just says capitalism is evil. i've noticed this in a few books i've read lately so i suspect it's the newest literary buzzword which is annoying. i would still recommend that ppl read this book, it was just a little all over the place

katie_the_vth's review

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Perhaps it was the wrong time. It is well-written and he is clearly very knowledgeable. I am not sure if the pandemoc is too fresh or if these essaya are not fresh enough. As someone who works in a hospital and follows liberal social media, it didn't feel like anything new at this moment. Maybe i will return to it some day.

rjayasankar01's review

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informative reflective sad tense slow-paced

4.0

coldsoup's review

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5.0

I really enjoyed this collections of essays about viruses and how they affect society. The author points out that viruses do not have minds of their own, the only thing they seek to do is to replicate in a host's cells. But this simple action has deep and far reaching effects. His essays go on to explore what viruses like Covid-19, HIV and influenza mean for societies and how they have affected the author in his personal life.

I like the author's interdisciplinary approach to his collection of essays, by introducing elements of scientific discourse to explain in an accessible manner the topics at hand to elements of literary discourse to see different author's perspectives on viruses and illness. I also liked how the author discussed the matters of gender, sexuality and race in relation to viruses and their impact in marginalized communities.

In all, this is definitely one of my favorite books this year.

reannual_plants's review

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emotional informative reflective medium-paced

4.5

samantha's review

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challenging emotional hopeful informative reflective medium-paced

5.0

‘The problem wasn’t illness. The problem never is. Illness is a fact of life. The problem is our inability to provide care to all.’

clayton_sanborn's review

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4.0

Effective admixture of microbiology, queer theory, and the personal essay

iguarnieri's review

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3.0

unfortunately I just don’t think I was in the mood for this book. I admired the writing, particular essays about the archives, “virality” as a metaphor, mentorship, HIV, queer history and the way the author integrates cultural criticism. A bunch of the essays, particularly the longer ones, really dragged for me or were repetitive and I found myself skimming. He also does a lot of making up for his privilege that just made me roll my eyes and some lines were just unbearably corny.

curious what anyone who comes at this from a science background would think about how he communicated those concepts but generally this is a lot more cultural commentary than I expected.

oakwrought's review

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4.0

excited to reread this as a book, feel like I will get a lot more out of it. I enjoyed the audiobook and thought it was well produced just having trouble focusing as of late

ba1l3y's review

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challenging emotional reflective medium-paced

4.0