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Publisher's Summary

Understanding how COVID-19 started is more important than we know for the future of humankind.  

Determining whether the virus came from nature or from a lab will help us to safeguard against the next pandemic.

This disease will for ever punctuate modern history. It has led to the deaths of millions, sickened hundreds of millions and affected the lives of almost every person on the planet. We now know that COVID is here to stay.

Genetic engineering expert Dr Alina Chan and renowned science writer Matt Ridley examine the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, using their formidable skills to scrutinise arguments and rigorously analyse the sprawling data. Viral is a fascinating account that takes in pangolins, horseshoe bats, internet sleuths and misleading scientific papers. It details the evidence and investigates hypotheses for the virus origin, chief among them a potential laboratory leak or a natural spillover.

Science has made great strides over the last decades. Chan and Ridley give an insight into the proliferating pathogen research and virus-hunting around the world. Whatever the source of the virus, the world needs to adopt new policies and strategies to prevent or mitigate future outbreaks.

Set in the caves and mineshafts, food markets and wildlife smugglers’ stores, laboratories and databases of China and elsewhere, Viral is a pause-resister that plays like a detective novel and goes deeper into the deepest mystery of the day than any other work.

This is the book on the search for the origin of COVID-19.

©2021 Alina Chan and Matt Ridley (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"The result is a viral whodunnit that is sure to appeal to armchair detectives." (Mark Honigsbaum, Observer)

"The book collates a series of circumstantial but damning points in favour of the lab-leak hypothesis. It opens with a cloak-and-dagger scene of a BBC reporter trying to reach a mine in Mojiang, a rural area in southwest China.... The book has dozens of tantalising facts.... The book, fairly, does not conclude that the lab leak hypothesis is definitely true, merely that it is highly possible, and I agree.... I hope the questions that Chan and Ridley raise are answered more fully, one way or another." (Tom Chivers, Times)

"Both journalists and armchair detectives interested in the mystery of the coronavirus were discovering Chan as a kind of Holmes to our Watson. She crunched information at twice our speed, zeroing in on small details we’d overlooked, and became a go-to for anyone looking for spin-free explications of the latest science on Covid-19." (Rowan Jacobsen, Boston Magazine)

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What listeners say about Viral

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  • Mark
  • 01-17-22

VITAL... A Must Read

Great book, well written and brimming with eye opening facts and data. They try to remain balanced but difficult in the face of overwhelming evidence

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  • John
  • 01-16-22

Viral is good recap of the origins of covid 19

The book is a good recap of events around origins of Covid 19. It could be covered in a long form article with references.

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  • TM
  • 01-02-22

More smoking guns than the battle of the Somme

Fabulous book. Easy to listen to. Helped by a good down to earth explanation of some quite tricky scientific ideas. I did not need the lay person explanations but it was helpful for my partner who isn’t in the field. We enjoyed listening to this.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-01-21

Compelling even for the lay person

Very clear and compelling documentary of the respiratory virus evolution from the death of Mojiang Miners in 2012 through to the current Pandemic. Pretty technical in places but allows a lay person to truly understand the subterfuge, delay and obfuscation around the publication of the 8 splinter SARS viruses that is pretty much a blueprint of COVID-19 today. Make your own mind up on the smoking gun.

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  • John
  • 11-18-21

Not bat-shit crazy; a fantastic book

A very thorough exploration of the Covid-19 lab leak hypothesis. About to start my second listen

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  • Angela F
  • 01-27-22

Informative!

extremely good, I don't believe it is written with bias but presents the known facts in a helpful timeline of the pandemic, good narrator voice

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  • kropotkin
  • 12-23-21

important & fascinating

Excellent investigation highlighting state, professional and commercial cover-up. Brilliant narration. Internet sleuths are the heroes.

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  • Fat Tony
  • 11-20-21

Well-written, captivating and not crazy!

Most press reviews of the book I've seen so far focus purely on molecular biology considerations. And they're right, those are not conclusive. In the book, these findings are combined with what was uncovered about the behavior of WIV scientist and Chinese officials.

The furin cleavage site, for example, is not presented as evidence for a lab leak by itself. A key fact is that in their first paper about the new virus, where WIV scientist scrutinized every genomic detail, this most obvious feature was omitted. In addition, we know that furin cleavage site insertion (on crippled viruses) is common practice in virology and was performed at WIV. The leaked grant proposal speaks of inserting “human-specific cleavage sites” as a way to “evaluate growth potential”. Update your priors!

I think whatever one may think on the lab leak hypothesis, the behavior of Chinese officials and scientists was shocking. I think that the democratic world needs to learn anew that one-party states are serious long term risks and that we should focus on not relying on them.

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  • Rob McGechan
  • 12-13-21

Ever want to know how we got covid?

Turns lab leak theory from possible to probable.
Got a bit technical for a few chapters but good overall.