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Lobby 2. Welcome The Reading Room Reading Challenges, 2010 topic #6
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Subject: "55. The White Plague by Frank Herbert" Previous topic | Next topic
Mesg #998 "55. The White Plague by Frank Herbert"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Dec 31st 2006
1631 posts
Date Fri Sep-17-10 08:13 PM
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Fri Sep-17-10 08:17 PMby alissaameth

Science Fiction.
502 pages.

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 for research purposes (he's a biologist/scientist of some sort that I forget). One day, his wife and children die in a terrorist attack that somehow involves the Irish, Great Britain and Libya. The scientist, driven mad by this loss, designs a plague that kills only women and then distributes it to punish the people that took his woman from him.

Now, here's what I expected, largely because I attend a women's college. I wanted to see how women would be treated. Would they be hidden away by resourceful men? ("Don't worry, honey, I'll save you.") Would they be kept isolated, or sent away? Would they have any agency at all? In addition to that, I was just expecting an entirely different protagonist. Perhaps the main characters would be a family that struggles through this time, when women are dropping like flies.

Imagine my surprise to find that the main character of the novel is the scientist, the Madman. Huh! It's clear that Herbert is interested in psychology, because he spends a lot of time talking about the Madman's mind and portraying the Madman's own journey through Ireland after the plague has begun. (Ireland is hit the hardest.) See, I don't think that's a terrible idea. It just isn't the story that I wanted to read... So I spent the first half of the novel wishing for less of the scientist and more of... anything else!

(If you were curious, there are very few women in the novel at all. Two researchers and "The One that Survived" are the only ones I can remember. The one who survived was preserved because her then-boyfriend put her in a tank right when the plague broke out, in which they lived together for months. We don't see much of this. The little that Herbert writes about them portrays the woman as very petty, whiny, needy and testy. Maybe I would feel that way if I were living in a tank, but the semi-feminist side of me was banging its head reading this.)

Another problem (in my opinion) was that the story in general was too distant from its circumstances. (It was certainly close to the Madman--and that was good writing, in my opinion. You really get into his head, and it's fascinating.) Now, the story starts with the terrorist attack that kills the wife and children. Then it follows the Madman making the plague. And then, once he's FINALLY perfected his virus, he distributes it.

Cut to politicians in Washington DC. The next 100 pages are about politicians and committees talking about the plague. Talking about it. Mentioning how women are dying left and right, mobs are breaking out everywhere, countries are racing to find cures first to gain more power, etc. Herbert goes to great lengths to impress upon the reader how BIG this thing is... but the reader never SEES any of it. It's all hear-say through politicians, until Herbert turns his focus back to the Madman walking through Ireland. Still, he's on the outskirts of most of the action.

So, there are good and bad things about this book. I was irked by the bad things so much that I almost didn't finish it. However, I would still recommend the book to others, as long as they didn't have the same expectations I had.

In summary, I thought it was too distant as it wrote around the action. The unexpected focus on the Madman didn't match my expectations of some kind of feminist treatment. (I should've known this wouldn't be feminist-ish, after reading Under Pressure. The MC's wife is lame.) However, Herbert does a great job following the Madman and getting the reader to KNOW him. There are two other characters who associate with the madmen who are interesting characters, too. I wish one of them had gotten more treatment, but I guess you can't write everything.

Last note: all pros and cons aside, I definitely think the book is about twice as long as it needs to be.

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Alissa's 2010 Book List [View all] , alissaameth, Wed Dec-16-09 04:20 PM
  1. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, Jan 03rd 2010, #1
2. King Lear by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 12th 2010, #2
RE: 2. King Lear by William Shakespeare, RavenCorbie, Jan 21st 2010, #5
      RE: 2. King Lear by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 23rd 2010, #8
3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat, alissaameth, Jan 18th 2010, #3
RE: 3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat, Stavechurch, Jan 26th 2010, #10
      RE: 3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat, alissaameth, Jan 30th 2010, #13
4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 20th 2010, #4
RE: 4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, blzrgurl71, Jan 21st 2010, #6
      RE: 4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 23rd 2010, #7
5. Households and Holiness by Carol Meyers, alissaameth, Jan 24th 2010, #9
6. Awakening Genius in the Classroom by Thomas Armstron..., alissaameth, Jan 29th 2010, #11
7. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 30th 2010, #12
8. With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray, alissaameth, Jan 31st 2010, #14
9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, alissaameth, Feb 05th 2010, #15
RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, RavenCorbie, Feb 06th 2010, #16
      RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, alissaameth, Feb 06th 2010, #17
           RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, RavenCorbie, Feb 07th 2010, #18
10. Music as a Way of Knowing by Nick Page, alissaameth, Feb 08th 2010, #19
11. Confessions of a Thug by Captain Meadows Taylor, alissaameth, Feb 10th 2010, #20
12. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Feb 10th 2010, #21
13. And Sarah Laughed by John H. Otwell, alissaameth, Feb 12th 2010, #22
14. The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano, alissaameth, Feb 12th 2010, #23
15. The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Feb 18th 2010, #24
16. Drama as a Way of Knowing by Paul G. Heller, alissaameth, Feb 26th 2010, #25
17. She by H. Rider Haggard, alissaameth, Feb 26th 2010, #26
RE: 17. She by H. Rider Haggard, tianne, Mar 24th 2010, #35
      RE: 17. She by H. Rider Haggard, alissaameth, Mar 24th 2010, #36
18. Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Mar 01st 2010, #27
RE: 18. Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, tianne, Mar 23rd 2010, #34
19. Dance as a Way of Knowing by Jennifer Donohue Zakka..., alissaameth, Mar 10th 2010, #28
20. The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner, alissaameth, Mar 16th 2010, #29
RE: 20. The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner, RavenCorbie, Mar 16th 2010, #30
21. All's Well that Ends Well by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Mar 17th 2010, #31
22. Guanya Pau by Joseph J. Walters, alissaameth, Mar 19th 2010, #32
23. Releasing the Imagination by Maxine Greene, alissaameth, Mar 20th 2010, #33
24. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, alissaameth, Mar 31st 2010, #37
25. Hard Times by Charles Dickens, alissaameth, Mar 31st 2010, #38
RE: 25. Hard Times by Charles Dickens, tianne, Apr 16th 2010, #40
      RE: 25. Hard Times by Charles Dickens, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #44
26. Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah by Eli..., alissaameth, Apr 07th 2010, #39
27. Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #41
28. Pericles by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #42
29. Visual Arts as a Way of Knowing by Karolynne Gee, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #43
30. The Missionary: An Indian Tale by Lady Morgan, alissaameth, Apr 20th 2010, #45
31. The Book of Leviticus by Gordon J. Wenham, alissaameth, Apr 21st 2010, #46
32. Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Apr 27th 2010, #47
33. Walk Leviticus! by Jeffrey Enoch Feinberg, Ph.D., alissaameth, Apr 27th 2010, #48
34. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fa..., alissaameth, Apr 27th 2010, #49
35. The Real Me: Being the Girl God Sees by Natalie Gra..., alissaameth, May 13th 2010, #50
36. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, May 21st 2010, #51
37. Arrow Book of Poetry by Ann McGovern, alissaameth, May 21st 2010, #52
38. Joshua by Joseph F. Girzone, alissaameth, May 21st 2010, #53
39. How to Search the Scriptures by Dr. Fuchsia Pickett, alissaameth, May 26th 2010, #54
40. Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb, alissaameth, Jun 04th 2010, #55
41. Skate by Michael Harmon, alissaameth, Jun 10th 2010, #56
42. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, Jun 10th 2010, #57
43. Let Me Out! I'm a Prisoner in a Stained-Glass Jail ..., alissaameth, Jun 14th 2010, #58
44. Under Pressure by Frank Herbert, alissaameth, Jun 18th 2010, #59
45. The Lonely Now by Nicky Cruz, alissaameth, Jun 23rd 2010, #60
46. A Child is Born by Lennart Nilsson, alissaameth, Jul 01st 2010, #61
47. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, alissaameth, Jul 05th 2010, #62
48. The Harvest Gypsies by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, Jul 05th 2010, #63
49. A Hilltop in Tuscany by Stephanie Grace Whitson, alissaameth, Jul 12th 2010, #64
50. Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath b..., alissaameth, Jul 21st 2010, #65
51. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, alissaameth, Jul 21st 2010, #66
XX. 3 Charlie Brown comics by Charles M. Schulz, alissaameth, Jul 21st 2010, #67
XX. The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watters..., alissaameth, Jul 31st 2010, #68
52. No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, alissaameth, Aug 11th 2010, #69
53. Scottish Highlanders in Colonial Georgia by Anthony..., alissaameth, Sep 02nd 2010, #70
54. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, alissaameth, Sep 02nd 2010, #71
55. The White Plague by Frank Herbert, alissaameth, Sep 17th 2010 #72
56. The Oresteia of Aeschylus trans. by Robert Lowell, alissaameth, Oct 02nd 2010, #73
RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, Erin_M_H, Nov 19th 2010, #74
RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, alissaameth, Nov 19th 2010, #76
      RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, bpratt, Dec 05th 2010, #77
           RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, alissaameth, Dec 07th 2010, #78
57. To Teach: The Journey, in Comics by Ayers & Alexand..., alissaameth, Nov 19th 2010, #75
58. The Rainmaker by John Grisham, alissaameth, Dec 09th 2010, #79
59. Hidden Empire by Kevin J. Anderson, alissaameth, Jan 01st 2011, #80
60. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, alissaameth, Jan 01st 2011, #81

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