Four Star review, originally posted here on October 21, 2014.
Full disclosure- I’ve met this author a handful of times and think he is pretty damn awesome and brilliant, so my review may be a little biased (though not inflated or dishonest, I don’t think).
Before Ebola was extremely interesting and informative, though it was not quite what I expected. I was expecting and hoping for more information about the actual virus, the human impact in Angola, the responses from government officials, victims, family members, community members, etc. Don’t get me wrong- all of that was in there. But this is not a full-length book, and so Apps did not have the length to get into the details as much as I would have liked. I haven’t gotten this far yet, but I assume that if I were to look up the articles he published from that time period I would find all the virus information there.
Where this essay really shines, though, is in describing life as a foreign correspondent, particularly as a promising rookie correspondent. Apps tells his story with humor and honesty, describing not just what his team did, but how they felt while doing it. I was amazed by how quickly they could churn out large quantities of copy, particularly considering how little time was spent at the actual sites. I also found Apps’ later reflections of this several day adventure refreshing, particularly because he eventually said what I was thinking the whole time while reading. I was surprised that so much effort went into getting out into the hot zone, but then they left pretty quickly without getting too immersed or even talking to many people. Apps admits later that he regrets not staying a little longer and getting a bit more involved. I appreciated the honesty, which showed how Apps has grown as a reporter over time.
Quick read, engaging, by a brilliant writer- definitely go check this one out.