Friday, April 20, 2007

The Hot Zone

On the ferry back and forth from Seattle to the Kitsap Peninsula, I finished The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. At some point last year, my wife bought it in a 3 for 2 deal at Borders, and I just grabbed it from our bookshelf one day. This is a book about level 4 viruses, Marburg, Ebola, and some others, and the the people that work to contain them. What I had to keep reminding myself was that this is a work of non-fiction. Otherwise, it reads something like a Dean Koontz novel. The book begins and ends in a place called Kitum Cave in the flanks of Mt. Elgon between Kenya and Uganda. This cave is where scientists and doctors suspect Ebola lives in nature, but they never do find out. Between cave episodes, the reader is treated to several graphic vignettes of people dying from the first known cases, as well as short-lived breakouts that don't necessarily get contained. They just disappear naturally. The main storyline is the appearance of a new strain of Ebola in a monkey house (holding place for the more than 16,000 monkeys a year imported for biomedical research and testing) in Virginia. As you can imagine, this is a page turner and cringe inducer. Pick it up and finish it in a day or so.

1 comment:

Patrick Higgins said...


I previewed this one a few years back to see if it was suitable for 8th grade students as summer reading. While I had to report to my department that it probably was not something parents would go for, I thought it painted a picture of the fragility that exists in our world. How something so virulent, for lack of a better word, and so unstable can absolutely wreak havoc on our world.