Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Hot Zone, Richard Preston

The Hot Zone
Richard Preston

I don't remember why I ordered this one from Something about it caught my eye and I have a ton of credits built up over there, so I requested it. Then it sat on my TBR shelf for a while, and got picked up a couple of days ago because it looked like some light reading.

And it turned out to be light reading, but not in the usual sense. I think it's written at about a 6th grade level, making it simplistic to read. The sentence structure got a bit repetitive at times, but the information it was interesting - and dark - so I didn't give up on it.

This is the true story of the first outbreak of Ebola in the US in 1989. What? You didn't know we'd had an Ebola outbreak here? You don't remember news stories about people dying in hideous ways? Well, I didn't either, and the story is interesting in various ways. We got very, very lucky in this case. I won't spoil it, though.

The story covers the historical background of Ebola and some other viruses. Some - like Marburg - are related to Ebola, while others - like AIDS - aren't related but came from the same area, and so share some of the same background.

On the whole this book was good, despite the simplistic writing style. It brought home the risks we face as a result of new viruses. Bird Flu is a new one - not mentioned in the book at all - that shows the planet actually is a really big petri dish, and we're just potential carriers for the next nasty disease to come along. One note: If you can't read about animals suffering, this is not a book for you. Monkeys play a major role here, one they did not willingly chose for themselves.