Monday, October 26, 2020
Max Brooks Reminds Us Coronavirus Truth is Stranger than Fiction
One of those who turned out for Max Brook’s talk in April wore a zombie-resistant coronavirus-worthy mask.
Sunday, March 8, 2020


Max Brooks, who came to Sun Valley in April at the invitation of the Community Library, would have another interesting tale to tell if he were to come back tomorrow.

Brooks wrote a piece this week for the Washington Post in which he noted that his zombie apocalypse novel told of a mysterious new disease showing up somewhere in China. The government suppresses  the news, threatening doctors who would sound the alarm. And that coverup allows the virus to spread throughout the country, then to the rest of the world.

It sounds like the headlines out of today’s newspapers. And that news began to be felt locally on Friday  as Perry’s began bagging the individual cookies it provides each Friday for Zions Bank customers, Sun Valley Film Festival officials assured participants that the festival would go on albeit it with gobs of disinfectant and skiers quipped that visiting Seattle skiers could be quarantined on Seattle Ridge.

But Brooks wrote “World War Z” in 2006.

Brooks said that he chose China as ground zero for his novel because it not only has a massive population and modern transportation network but it has an authoritarian regime with a tight rein on the press.

His book was banned in China. Brooks was asked to remove chapters about China because its “politically sensitive material” would make authorities jumpy.

He refused, citing the need for an open society where governments operate transparently and information circulates freely. That, he noted in his Washington Post piece, is the bedrock of public health.

While Brooks’ plot may have seemed far fetched at the time, he based it on the real-life spread of SARS, which emerged in China in late 2002. There again the Chinese government did not warn the public or the World Health Organization about the new and deadly pathogen for months. Authorities forbade newspapers from reporting on it and they underreported cases, as well.

By the end of the outbreak in July 2003, it had infected 8,000 people halfway around the world, killing 774.

At the time Max Brooks wrote his piece for the Washington Post, coronavirus had infected more than 80,000 people, killed 2,770.

“And it looks like we’re just getting started,” he wrote.

Brooks added that those in the United States need to do what medical authorities tell them to do and that they need to shore up their health institutions.

“When we hear our fellow citizens surrendering to rumors, gossip or any unscientific fearmongering, we need to push back as if they were coughing in our face,” he wrote for the Washington Post.



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