We gave it a B+
Empires tremble, cities are besieged, apocryphal countesses swoon — all on account of the wee mosquito. Malaria is probably the most lethal plague humanity has ever known, and for most of the colonial era the only treatment was quinine, ground from the bark of the rare South American cinchona tree. The Spanish had it (or thought they did). The English wanted it. And the tree’s Andean harvesters were committed to keeping it for themselves. Honigsbaum writes with the gusto (and, occasionally, the fecklessness) of a great white hunter: Names, places, and Linnaean taxonomies come at you in swarms, and some parts are about as navigable as a treacherous Amazon bog. But when Trail is on track, it’s a lush tale of buccaneer botanists and heroic hypochondriacs — a screen treatment that has the advantage of being absolutely true.