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Monday, November 23, 2009

The Hot Zone

The Hot Zone:
A Terrifying True Story
by Richard Preston
audio book: 11 hours


*** About the Book ***

Fact: The most lethal strain of the Ebola virus kills 9 out of 10 people it infects.

Fact: If you contract the Ebola virus, your insides turn to mush and you almost certainly die within 7 days.

Fact: There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola or its sister viruses.

Fact: A new strain of Ebola devastated a monkey holding facility outside Washington, DC in 1989.

Question: What will happened next time Ebola breaks out?

This book tells the story of the discovery of filoviruses - thread-like viruses that include Marburg and Ebola. These viruses are referred to as "slate wipers" because if they were introduced into the general population they would wipe out almost all human life on earth. The book alternates between stories of outbreaks and information on the people researching these viruses. The culmination of the book is the 1989 outbreak of a then unknown virus in a monkey holding facility just outside Washington, DC. and how this outbreak was handled.

Note: I couldn't find an image that matched the cover on my library copy. I have to say that my cover is decidedly creepier ...


*** Why I Read It ***

Alyce mentioned this in a recent Friday Finds post and I thought it sounded fascinating. When I was looking for a new audio book from the library, this was readily available so I checked it out.


*** My Thoughts ***

Woah. This book is crazy. The fact that it is true is completely creeping me out. My desire to take an African safari or a trip into the rainforest has just about totally disappeared now.

Let me back up a bit and clarify some things. I do not read or watch horror. I don't particularly enjoy being scared. I can't watch medical shows where you see a doctor cutting into a person's skin. I don't like gore. Yet at the same time I am fascinated by stories of survival and disease. Go figure.

This book definitely has gore. The filoviruses are horrible. By horrible I mean disgusting, creepy, terrifying, and deadly. They basically turn your insides to mush and make you bleed from Every.Single.Opening in your body (including your salivary glands!). Autopsies performed on animals and people who die from these viruses show bodies whose insides look like they've been dead for several days. I listened to this book in the car going to and from work and most days I had a look of horror or disgust stuck on my face the whole time. Other drivers probably thought I was nuts.

I don't read zombie stories but this book reminded me of one. I'd listen to the description of what the virus was doing to a person and I'd think, "yes, and then the victim turned into a zombie, stood up and tried to bite the doctor's face off." Of course that isn't what happened but zombie stories could totally steal some lines from this book!

With all this horror and disgusting-ness, you're probably thinking that I hated this book but you couldn't be more wrong. I LOVED IT. OK, maybe loved is the wrong world to use but I found it completely fascinating and I took every excuse to be in my car alone so I could listen to it ('cause you KNOW I wasn't letting Kiddo hear any of this!).

If you can handle some truly horrible facts about what Ebola can do to a body (and remember, I am a big chicken and don't like gore at all) then you should definitely pick up this book. It is one that I will remember for a very long time to come.

Hmm, now I have a strong desire to watch that movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman ...




About the audio book: This book was narrated by Richard M. Davidson. He did a very good job with it and I have no complaints.


*** Your Thoughts ***

Are you brave enough to read this one? Why or why not? Are you generally a fan of "disease" books? Which would you recommend? I'm definitely in the mood for more non-fiction like this one so please share your suggestions.

I've only found one other review of this book:
  • Semicolon read it while waiting in the emergency room - she's braver than I would have been!
If you've reviewed this book as well I'd love to add your link here, just let me know in the comments.

11 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I think I'd rather stay ignorant and skip this one. I have enough to worry about without adding Ebola to the mix.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I first heard an excerpt of this book when my biology teacher read one of the particularly gory scenes and then reminded us that this was indeed nonfiction. I don't think I would be interested in medical thrillers that are fictional. I listened to this book on tape while driving to visit some friends throroughly enjoyed it! Glad you liked it too.

amy said...

Haha, you crack me up. And how weird, I just watched Outbreak last week! I also have a weird fascination with crazy virus stories even though it tends to make me a bit of a hypochondriac. This book sounds like something I'll love/be terrified of! :)

Alyce said...

I've got it waiting on my shelf! I'm so glad to hear that you liked it.

The description really reminded me of Outbreak too. I remember that I was at home sick with a really bad cold the first time I watched Outbreak, and it terrified me.

I think the reason why I'm fascinated by things like Ebola is because they are so terrifying and they are real.

Heather J. said...

bermudaonion - I can totally respect that! :)

A Bookshelf Monstosity - Wow, the fact that this was read (in part) in a science class is pretty cool. Glad to know you enjoyed this one!

amy - If you liked Outbreak you will DEFINITELY appreciate this book. I know you're busy with school, but maybe you could do the audio book on your commute or something ...

Alyce - "they are so terrifying and they are so real" - yes, that is exactly what makes them so creepily fascinating.

Dreamybee said...

LOL-I love disease books too. I guess it's just the fascination with the sheer amount and type of destruction that can be wrought by one little organism. This book has been on my TBR pile since I read Preston's The Wild Trees, which was the book that started all our tree climbing adventures. I don't think this book would have quite the same effect though-I'm not about to start culturing weird diseases in my fridge or anything!

audiobooklove said...

Sounds super creepy...I'm reading World War Z right now and it sounds similar in a way.

Steve said...

Wow, I haven't thought of this book in years. I remember reading it when it came out. Mom bought it, I picked it up after she read it. That led to a 3+ hour discussion of infectious diseases, how they spread, etc. These things happen when your mother works in a hospital lab.

Heather J. said...

Dreamybee - Um, yes, I doubt that this book will have the same effect as the tree book ... at least I hope not! ~LOL~

audiobooklove - Is that the zombie book? I've heard of that one before.

Steve - This is a great book to discuss with someone, especially someone with specific knowledge.

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I read this and loved it. I'm a fan of medicial thrillers and boy, this book does not disappoint!

Heather J. said...

Jenn - "does not disappoint" = exactly!

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