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The Rationing
Cover of The Rationing
The Rationing
A Novel
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A pointed political satire about a government that can actually confront a crisis.

America is in trouble— at the mercy of an unknown pathogen. That ordinarily wouldn't lead to catastrophe, thanks to modern medicine, but there's just one problem: the government supply of Dormigen, the silver bullet of pharmaceuticals, has been depleted just as demand begins to spike.

Set in the near future, The Rationing centers around a White House struggling to quell the crisis— and control the narrative. Working together, just barely, are a savvy but preoccupied President; a Speaker more interested in jockeying for position— and a potential presidential bid— than attending to the minutiae of disease control; a patriotic Majority Leader unable to differentiate a virus from a bacterium; a Strategist with brilliant analytical abilities but abominable people skills; and, improbably, our narrator, a low- level scientist with the National Institutes of Health who happens to be the world's leading expert in lurking viruses.

Political backstabbing, rank hypocrisy, and dastardly deception reign in this delightfully entertaining debut, sure to lift one's spirits far above the national stage.

A pointed political satire about a government that can actually confront a crisis.

America is in trouble— at the mercy of an unknown pathogen. That ordinarily wouldn't lead to catastrophe, thanks to modern medicine, but there's just one problem: the government supply of Dormigen, the silver bullet of pharmaceuticals, has been depleted just as demand begins to spike.

Set in the near future, The Rationing centers around a White House struggling to quell the crisis— and control the narrative. Working together, just barely, are a savvy but preoccupied President; a Speaker more interested in jockeying for position— and a potential presidential bid— than attending to the minutiae of disease control; a patriotic Majority Leader unable to differentiate a virus from a bacterium; a Strategist with brilliant analytical abilities but abominable people skills; and, improbably, our narrator, a low- level scientist with the National Institutes of Health who happens to be the world's leading expert in lurking viruses.

Political backstabbing, rank hypocrisy, and dastardly deception reign in this delightfully entertaining debut, sure to lift one's spirits far above the national stage.
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About the Author-
  • Charles Wheelan is the author of the best-selling Naked Statistics and Naked Economics and is a former correspondent for The Economist. He teaches public policy and economics at Dartmouth College and lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his family.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2019
    An entertaining political satire that follows the handling of a national medical crisis both in the White House and in the lab. Around the year 2030, a new flulike viral disease emerges mainly in the United States. No problem: Science has invented Dormigen, a drug that effectively treats viral and bacterial infections. Yes problem: A warehouse fire destroys some of the federal government's supply of Dormigen, and the private company that produces the fallback stockpile tries to cut corners. The awful upshot as the death count from the new bug rises: Washington may have to ration existing supplies if the National Institutes of Health can't save the day. Wheelan (Naked Money, 2016, etc.) teaches public policy at Dartmouth, has written primers on economics and statistics, and ran unsuccessfully for Congress. His narrator is a 30-year-old scientist and purported author of a book called The Rationing about his experience as one of the NIH researchers seeking a cure and given access to White House meetings. 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. A feisty famous older woman starts a national death watch when she refuses available Dormigen on principle. China mounts a clumsy tradeoff by offering its stores of the drug in exchange for unfettered Asian dominance and more parking spaces at the U.N. India's prime minister links sharing his supply to a PR campaign involving toilets and televisions. 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.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 8, 2019
    In this not-so-far-fetched debut satire set just over a decade from now, when American political parties have been restructured and an independent president sits in the White House, the unexpected shortage of a vital medicine leads to national and global political jockeying. Framed as a nonfiction account by a scientist from the National Institutes of Health, this tale reconstructs the chain of events concerning the so-called Outbreak of a mysterious flu-like illness that’s often fatal and can only be treated by the miracle drug Dormigen. Unfortunately, through accident and negligence, America’s supply of Dormigen is unavailable. As the American government attempts to secure the drug from other countries while keeping the scope of the emergency under wraps, doctors and scientists, including the narrator, desperately look for the Outbreak’s cause and other options for treatment. Wheelan (Naked Economics), who teaches public policy and economics at Dartmouth, has a keen handle on political intricacies and maneuverings, focusing on the give-and-take among individuals and countries, the domino effect of minor factors, and the influence of globalism. However, his approach robs the story of intimacy and immediacy. The plot and characters are not especially unique, but readers looking to explore challenging contemporary topics with just a touch of speculative fiction’s distancing effect will find this well worth a look. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor.

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