A puzzling pathogen has caused an outbreak of a malicious illness throughout the United States, and the government does not have enough of the medication needed to treat it. In their frenzied attempt to round up supplies while keeping a lid on the extent of the catastrophe, government officials engage in political backstabbing, rank hypocrisy, and dastardly deception.
Journalist and public-policy professor Wheelan...draws deeply on his intimate knowledge of the world of governance and politics to create his first novel, an eminently credible tale of a worst-case scenario that one hopes never comes to pass.
The meetings [in the novel among government officials] capture some of the tawdry excitement of the fly-on-the-wall reportage of Bob Woodward or Michael Wolff ... Mr. Wheelan’s big dramatic misstep is his decision to call the characters by their job titles, leading to needlessly confusing interactions between indistinguishable Secretaries and Directors and Acting Secretaries. But the point is to stress the egoless professionalism of this would-be administration ... This is, in the end, a hopeful future in which the White House is once again occupied by responsible adults capable of making tough decisions for the good of the nation.
An entertaining political satire ... While the narrative’s science side is by turns interesting or tedious, the insider’s view of the political turmoil is the big draw of this debut novel. In a Hollywood pitch, it would be a mashup of Dustin Hoffman films: Outbreak meets Wag the Dog. But it’s more like a West Wing marathon, with Sorkin-esque dialogue, well-drawn characters, and sharp-edged infighting. Meaty subplots and sidebars arise ... There’s almost too much going on. Still, the pages generally flutter by quickly, fueled by the political heat and Wheelan’s smooth, workmanlike prose. A highly readable and intelligent first novel.