Reviewed by Ambrea
In his book, The Hot Zone, Richard Preston explores the history behind the highly infectious and incredibly deadly ebola viruses. He takes a look at its possible origins in central Africa and tracks it across continents, all the way to an outbreak in an animal quarantine facility in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He examines first-hand accounts, follows scientists who study level 4 “hot” viruses, and weaves a terrifying, nightmarish story about a disease with no cure—and a known fatality rate of 90 percent.
I decided to read The Hot Zone at the recommendation of our favorite librarian, Jeanne, and found a copy of the audio book on Tennessee READS. Although I selected an abridged version of Preston’s book – and I feel a little like I missed out on some details – I still found it to be a compelling read, nonetheless. Preston’s book, even trimmed down to fit a five-hour time frame, is one of those that hooks you in the first few minutes and then never really lets you go.
Narrated by Howard McGillin, The Hot Zone is a suspenseful and terrifying book simply for the fact that it deals with a very modern disease, one that humankind has yet to understand. This wasn’t like reading about the bubonic plague (we have antibiotics for that), or polio (we have a vaccine for that), or cholera (we have antibiotics for that, too). Nowadays, there’s a very good chance a person could survive any one of those illnesses, but that’s definitely not the case with ebola.
Ebola will very likely kill you. Quickly, painfully – and then it’ll get everyone around you.
I have to admit The Hot Zone has pretty much killed my interest in diseases, plagues, and disasters – at least, temporarily – because, after finishing it, I think I need some time to recover. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I listened to Preston’s book. It’s well-written, fast-paced, and intensely compelling. While it may rely heavily on thriller tropes and shock value, it kept me riveted (and filled with mortal dread) from the first minute; however, it’s also one of the more gruesome books I’ve read recently and it involves a lot of death, specifically of the human and simian variety.
I don’t recommend eating lunch while listening to this audio book. It will definitely spoil your appetite.