The Hot Zone
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The Hot Zone

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  43,322 ratings  ·  2,132 reviews
USA Today: "This work of nonfiction is more terrifying than any sci-fi nightmare." A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, DC. There is no cure. In a few days, 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exot...more
Paperback, 422 pages
Published June 15th 1999 by Anchor (first published September 20th 1993)
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The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
57th out of 2,571 books — 4,696 voters
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingCosmos by Carl SaganThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Science Books - Non-Fiction Only
17th out of 687 books — 1,730 voters

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Community Reviews

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Feb 01, 2008 Charissa rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: people who don't need to sleep well at night
Recommended to Charissa by: Satan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Terror at the personal level.

Very personal for me...

I read this book while on night watch in the Army. I was eating cheap red licorice at a frenzied pace while I read from sheer nerves. The idea of bleeding out through every bodily opening was terrifying.

The next morning I went to the bathroom and discovered that cheep red licorice passes nearly untouched through the human digestive system. It goes in red and comes out red - blood red. I very nearly screamed before I realized what I was seeing....more
Jun 27, 2007 Tortla rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: people eating on planes next to sick people
Shelves: schooly
Read this while you are eating on a plane next to a sick person.
The positive: Friggin' scary. Not just the descriptions of people bleeding out of their pores, or the bit about the melting organs -- it all started with an imperceptible bug bite, or maybe sex, or perhaps just breathing the air in a certain place. Then you get a headache and red eyes*. Then you slowly start to melt from the inside out**. It's a sort of sick pleasure, though, to read it. It's as well-written as most medical thrillers, and nicely paced.

The negative: I mean, of course it's going t...more
Oh, my. What a terrifying book.

The Hot Zone documents the journey of filoviruses in the human race. Specifically, this book documents the time when Ebola snuck its way into Washington DC. Ebola is a highly contagious virus that slowly turns your body to mush. First you have a headache. Then your face freezes into a mask. You bleed from every pore. Essentially, Ebola liquefies people.

Let me be the first one to say that this book scares me in the most fascinating way. I was like, wait. How can a...more
My take-away thoughts from reading The Hot Zone:

A. You do not want to get infected with Ebola.

B. If A above occurs, head immediately and directly to your nearest lawn and garden store, purchase a pack of rat poison, mix with vodka, and drink your last.

C. Repeat B above until dead.

D. Again, you do not want to get infected with Ebola.
Feb 10, 2008 Christine rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Scientists, Sleuths, Hypochondriacs
Shelves: read-non-fiction
I could say that this book changed my life. I could say that, although it's not quite true as I haven't passed my MCATs yet. But the study of disease and populations and epidemics was brought to a head the first time I read this book around 2003 (I think). Now with the H5N1 poised to jump species and AIDS still an ongoing problem and globalization, environmental and water shortages are present-day issues I think that it would be crazy to think that viruses vs. people is over. However I don't thi...more
Maria Nes-Li
Apr 28, 2012 Maria Nes-Li rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone who is into virology
Recommended to Maria Nes-Li by: Dr. Daniel Sanchez
Shelves: science, geekery
This book was highly recommended by my immunology/virology professor. And with THE Stephen King mentioned that the book gave him the creeps, it really stirred my curiosity.

The book is about the reality of discovering viruses (Cue Big Bang Theory theme: Australopithecus would really have been sick of us Debating out while here they're catching deer (we're catching viruses). This tells the story of how scientist was able to discover three of the deadliest viruses that ravaged mankind during the 90...more
Wendy Darling
This book scared the crap out of me. Not only is it terrifying to read about this insane virus, but I've never read non-fiction work with such urgent and visceral power. I felt splattered and shattered by the time the whole ghastly mess was all over, but was feverishly excited to read such fantastic writing, too. Definitely only for those with strong stomachs.
Sep 17, 2007 Nathan rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Hypochondriacs.
Shelves: science, history
At first it feels no different from a flu. Quickly, the back pains start, followed by uncontrollable fever and blistering. Your insides begin to liquify, and in a matter of a few days, you're dead, your internal organs have literally melted. Reader, meet Ebola. Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone explores Ebola from its first appearances in the rain forests of Africa to its one outbreak in the United States, at a monkeyhouse in Reston, Virginia, a short drive from Washington, D.C. He focuses on the h...more
The first time I read (well, started reading) this book I was in junior high...and I read the first chapter and was I stopped. When I read it again a couple of years ago, I got through it but was still a little freaked out. Ebola and the hemorrhagic fevers scare me and intrigue me at the same time. It;s the kind of book that is eerie to read late at night when you're alone. Definitely entertaining, but the disclaimer to this one is that the historical situation it is based on is o...more
Aug 11, 2011 Josi added it
The Hot Zone is an action packed page turner that leaves you feeling that you actually learned a fairly decent chunk of biology (and you did!). It can be understood from a layman's perspective, which is a beautiful effort in itself given how complex some of the information is. I am giving this book a high rating because of this and how well written it is. However, there are a few small points that I'm not overly fond of. It is written in a fairly confusing style I wanted at first to liken it to...more
This book is utterly terrifying. You'll find yourself questioning every sniffle or headache after putting it down. A phrase that comes up often in the book is "shit scared." I think that's the best way to describe this read.

It's a true story about Ebola and the scariest part is that it's still active to this day. I finished reading the book and then a news report came on the BBC about the latest outbreak. And there's nothing you can do about it.

From start to finish, you'll have a hard time teari...more
We're doomed. This book truly is scary. I had heard of Ebola many times but this really brought to home just how horrifying and deadly it really is. The day that virus mutates into an airborne pathogen is the day the human race faces extinction.

And if you thought descriptions of the Black Plague were bad you ain't seen nothing yet. Death by filovirus would have to be one of the worst ways to go. Your body literally liquifies while you are still alive. Blood pours from every orifice. Every organ...more
I read this while laid low by a bug and let me tell you, nothing will cure you (ha!) of self-pity more than the knowledge that your physical malady could be much, much worse. Preston manages to inject a remarkable amount of suspense in scenes that are essentially getting in and out of biohazard suits while sporting a cut. Definitely not for the weak of stomach, since the description of how the Ebola viruses ravage the body is thorough and unflinching.
Very suspenseful and a very tight read. At times a bit gory, but then Ebola is a very bad virus and dying from it is a horrific experience. I don't have much to add except that it will keep you on the edge of your seat and cause you to realize that there are many many ways to die in this world. We all have to go eventually, but please don't let it be by Ebola or Anthrax or Measles or Bubonic Plague.
Chad Sayban
We humans like to think we are at the top of the food chain. We are the ultimate predators capable of dispensing with anything that gets in our way. Our biggest threat is really only to each other. Right? In a word…wrong. There are predators that have been around since long before we came out of the trees – predators that we can’t fight, can’t stop – can’t even see. And they have been right on our doorstep and we didn’t even know it.

“In biology, nothing is clear, everything is too complicated, e...more
John Mcconahey
In 2009, the United States experienced an outbreak of swine influenza whose viral origin is in pigs, but in rare instances, can be passed to humans. This current unknown strain also can be passed from human to human, but the mortality rate is less than 10%. Still, people are wary – sometimes even panicky. 2009 was not the best year to read Hot Zone. I’m not fond of terror or horror tales. The thing that makes this book frightening is that it is non-fiction.

The book begins in Kitum Cave, Kenya, w...more
I really wanted to give this book a higher rating, because I enjoyed learning about the content (Marburg, and the various forms of filoviruses), but I can't. In many ways the book read like a children's encyclopedia. Much of the extraneous imagery seemed misplaced and dull, and I became increasingly frustrated with the author's short and choppy sentences.

I suspect that the book was "dumbed-down" for a lay-audience, but I also believe that the author/publisher didn't give that audience enough cr...more
Terri Lynn
I just did a reread of this book as I do from time to time and yes, it is still as scary and gruesome as ever.

The scary thing is that it is a true story, a work of nonfiction even though it is written like an exciting novel, and the gruesome part is thinking of the poor victims of Ebola bleeding from every hole in their body. That first man, the Frenchman "Charles Monet" should never have gone into that cave in Africa. Should never had touched and handled wild monkeys.

Picture a man with a myst...more
Edward Newton
I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading this book. I've been wanting to for a long time. I find this stuff really fascinating. Working in emergency medicine we are always aware of the possibility that the next patient could be the one that is bringing back SARS or now MERS or Ebola, Marburg...or some yet undiscovered virus that will not only melt your liver but may kill your family and co-workers. I think that it is inevitable that eventually one of these viruses, probably o...more
Let me be clear about one thing before I get into my full review. The writing in this book is absolutely atrocious. Ideas and paragraphs seem to fly out of nowhere while sentences seem disconnected. The ebook version of this book has numerous grammar and spelling mistakes and punctuation seems to have been an afterthought. With all that in mind, The Hot Zone is one of the most compelling, interesting, and fascinating non-fiction books around. It is absolutely worth reading and considering, espec...more
Linda C
OMG-- this was a scary, scary book. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this book kept me interested from page 1. The writing was descriptive and the author personalized the main characters. So many non-fiction books are dry, scholarly works-- fine if you need a reference for a college paper, but not so interesting to read. This book read like fiction, except that it was all true.

Reminded me of when I was a kid, and I read a book about a girl getting polio. I went to bed for weeks afterwards...more
A non-fiction story that shows the horrifying and stark reality of the unforgiving deadly insidious power of a certain virus, the Ebola virus.
A story that proves that truth can be more scary than some tales from fiction.
Engrossing and a deadly read, terror and concern will run through your veins the next time you have flu symptoms that feel different from the norm.
The author has done well in using facts in a spine chilling and captivating thriller with well crafted storytelling and writing.
A m...more
I've always been interested in disease/virus study, this being on the Ebola virus it sparked my interest. A definite page turner that will make your skin crawl. Powerful descriptive writting. It has such intensity and raw detail that you become completely engrossed in the story.
David Johnson
Preston is not the best writer around, but I find the subject extremely interesting. This book will have you washing your hands every five minutes for a month.
Little did I know that reading this book would lead me to many other medical books. It sparked in me a kind of learning virus.
Mar 08, 2009 Annie added it
ew. this book has the most descriptive gorey stuff u can find. warning: will puke!
Timothy Stelly Sr
I am a huge fan of Stephen King, but the most frightening tale I’ve read in a long time was penned by author Richard Preston, whose book The Hot Zone, is rooted in reality and tells the story of how the destruction of the rain forests—particularly in Africa—are unleashing new and frightening viruses. King himself wrote of the first chapter, “The first chapter of The Hot Zone is one of the most horrifying things I've read in my whole life--and then it gets worse. That's what I keep marveling...more
Randolph Carter
Panicky sort of doomsday fare that passes for popular information today. True tales of prospective Stephen King The Stand-like plagues. Journalistic writing tries to pass off as scientifically based but anecdotes are the main fare here and there is precious little science. The various plagues enumerated within: Anthrax, Ebola, West Nile, Bird Flu, etc. just have not shown an ability, in the 16 years since the book was written, to jump to a form that is going to become more epidemic for humans. I...more
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How did you end up reading this book? 56 188 Dec 10, 2013 03:18PM  
Why do you think the researchers still kept experimenting even though they knew they could die? 6 52 Mar 30, 2013 07:19PM  
Mr. Rossi: EIIHJ ...: Recommendation 1 1 Dec 16, 2012 08:21PM  
Mr. Rossi: EIIHJ ...: Interesting stucture 1 1 Dec 05, 2012 08:41AM  
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Richard Preston is a journalist and nonfiction writer.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
More about Richard Preston...
The Cobra Event The Demon in the Freezer The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring Panic in Level 4: Cannibals, Killer Viruses, and Other Journeys to the Edge of Science The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007

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“In biology, nothing is clear, everything is too complicated, everything is a mess, and just when you think you understand something, you peel off a layer and find deeper complications beneath. Nature is anything but simple.” 57 likes
“When people asked him why he didn't work with those viruses, he replied, I don't particularly feel like dying.” 12 likes
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