An Audiobook Review by Jackie Houchin
Steven Johnson’s THE GHOST MAP is an amazing history about a disease, a doctor, and a parson who tracked, and eventually mapped the mass destruction that cholera brought to Victorian London in the 1850’s, and how, due to their persistence and that of a few other scientists, it was traced to its source – the water from a single pump in one neighborhood – and eventually stopped.
Sanitary conditions at that time were unimaginable. People were literally drinking sewage. They simply let the solids settle to the bottom of their buckets before ladling it out. Millions died, often within 24 hours of being infected by cholera. Whole families… whole blocks wiped out in a matter of days. There are details and statistics in the book but Johnson makes them interesting and readable.
THE GHOST MAP tells of the dedication of these men who battled against vicious backlash and ridicule from “knowledgeable” people, as well as the bacteria itself. And more astonishing is how the city – once convinced – undertook the massive project to remedy the problem. Water and sewer systems that rival any in the world were built in less than 10 years.
In the epilogue, Johnson gives warnings about germ warfare and pandemics loosed on the planet by rogue labs in the future. (Ha! This was written in 2015. How could he have known what would happen a mere 5 years later!) For me, the book is non-fiction at its scary best.
(NOTE: Johnson does promote Darwin’s evolution in several minor places, and “denigrates” Intelligent creation as well.)
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