The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

I spent the day yesterday, unexpectedly, in the emergency room at a nearby hospital. (Everybody’s OK now, but emergency rooms take t–i–m–e.) Of course, I had to take some reading material along, and I chose a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time: The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. The book is a nonfiction thriller about an outbreak of Ebola virus in suburban Washington, D.C. Did I mention that it’s NONfiction?

As I read about Ebola, maybe the nastiest virus yet discovered, and about how 60-90% of people infected by the virus don’t survive, and about a hospital in Africa that was literally wiped out by an outbreak of Ebola virus, I was sitting in the emergency room listening to a baby crying and people groaning, and I was wondering what kinds of germs, bacteria, and nasty viruses were floating around in the air. The emergency room nurse saw what I was reading and reassured me that “most of those hemorrhagic fevers stay in Africa or Asia, hardly ever here in the U.S.” Since I was reading, at that very minute, about how monkeys from the Philippines carried Ebola to Reston, Virginia in 1989, I was not convinced that the danger was as minimal as the nurse seemed to think. In other words, “hardly ever” isn’t good enough. Do we really need to import thousands of monkeys into the U.S. each year for medical research, anyway? Can’t the researchers go to the monkeys, if it’s really necessary?

Philosophical and practical questions aside, The Hot Zone is well-written, informative, exciting, and scary. The book was best-seller back when it was first published over ten years ago (1994). So some of you have probably read it. If you haven’t and you’re looking for a plot device for your terrorist thriller or apocalyptic dystopian novel, you could probably find it in this book. I can only imagine what that emergency room would look like if one of the viruses in this book managed to get loose in Houston. A long wait would be the least of our worries.

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Sherry

I'm a Christian, the homeschooling mom of eight (yes, all mine) children, married to a NASA engineer, and a confirmed bookaholic. I like old books, conservative politics, and new and interesting ideas. My hair is grey, my favorite clothes are red, and I love purple. Come on in and enjoy the blog. Be sure to tell me what you think before you leave.

6 thoughts on “The Hot Zone by Richard Preston”

  1. Sorry to hear you had to visit the E.R. Glad everyone’s okay now. Quite the appropriate reading material for a hospital visit. BTW, my daddy spent Vietnam at Ft. Detrick working on Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other infectious diseases. The preventive medicines he was given (all at once) before starting at the program almost killed him.

  2. My husband read this book a few years ago (I think it is still in the boxes waiting to be unpacked when we purchase more bookshelves).

    He kept telling me it read like a thriller, and to think it really happened! I just heard on the radio that the hoof and mouth disease found in Europe last week may be traced to an agricultural experiment lab next door to it. Hmmmm…

    We watched a TV movie many years ago, can’t remember what the name of it was and we haven’t seen it on TV since. However, it was about a virus outbreak on a cruise ship. There is a great line in it when the scientists arrive by helicopter in those suits that look like they are from NASA. One person on the ship looks at another and says, “You know you are in trouble when they bring their own air”. I’d say…

  3. If you liked The Hot Zone, you should read his other book Demon in the Freezer. I normally don’t read non-fiction, but Preston is very good at keeping the tension alive throughout his books. I think I definitely would have been freaked out by reading it in a hospital though. Hats off to your courageousness! 🙂

  4. I’m a bit hesitant to buy another of Preston’s books.

    Did you ever read his book The Wild Trees?

    Supposedly about redwoods in uncharted forests. Well … they are in the redwood forest alright, and I finally found two of the main groves:

    http://www.mdvaden.com/grove_of_titans.shtml

    And found them in a location that was exactly the opposite of something Preston wrote about them. What would you think, if Preston said something about the location of something in a non-fiction book, and you found out the exact opposite?

    Seeing something he wrote about in person, really took the wind out of the sails of the book. It’s got good info mind you, but I realized the sensationalism that Preston uses to stretch the facts to their limits.

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