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The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus
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The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  53,293 ratings  ·  2,883 reviews
The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. 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 exotic "hot ...more
Paperback, 323 pages
Published June 15th 1999 by Anchor (first published 1993)
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Amy Moseley I highly recommend _The Coming Plague_ by Laurie Garrett and _Ebola_ by Dr William Close. The first does an excellent job of the science behind…moreI highly recommend _The Coming Plague_ by Laurie Garrett and _Ebola_ by Dr William Close. The first does an excellent job of the science behind emerging infectious disease; the second changed a few names to protect the living and the dead, but the story of the nuns, villagers, and epidemiologists give the disease a much more empathetic treatment which helps explain the choices made by those exposed to the virus.(less)
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)
49th out of 2,877 books — 4,933 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 862 books — 1,962 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oddmix
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
Charissa
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.
Tortla
Nov 13, 2014 Tortla rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people eating on planes next to sick people
Read this while you are eating on a plane next to a sick person.
Hannah
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.
Hunger For Knowledge
Buddy read with James. Re-read with myself.

Preston's The Hot Zone is a book that perfectly suits for an audio book format, if the execution is done right.

I am quite happy to say this to be the case. Narrator Howard McGillin was the right man to turn this horrifyingly suspenseful book to an audio treat with even more of the nail-biting atmosphere attached to it.

Preston's style to tell a story of Ebola, written in -93, was quite fascinating. It is always some way fresh to read a non fiction book t
...more
Sara
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
Traveller
Ouch.... seems I am of the faint-hearted sort. At the point where Monet starts to literally disintegrate on his plane trip, I got a kind of anxiety attack and had to stop reading. :(

...so... it looks like I might literally not be able to read this book...

UPDATE:
I did it! ..and Preston did apparently later admit that he had slightly exaggerated here and there. I must admit that I found his visit to Kitum cave, towards the end of the book, to be a spot of melodrama, as was quite a bit of the rest
...more
Tiffany
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
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.
Christine
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
Kim
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
Shelley


I read this book almost 20 years ago, and to this day I still recall the chilling horror the authors predicted stats of what could happen to the worlds population if this disease where to spread beyond the confines of darkest, rural Africa.

And now it has. Ebola is fucking real and it is spreading!

Palestine, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, USA, the Taliban and whoever else is warring over petty shit, like land, religion or honor, killing innocents in the name of what-the-fuck-ever need to turn the othe
...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
J
Aug 11, 2011 J 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
Rusalka
Things I have learnt while reading this book:

-- Telling you random things about people you are introducing in the book will "make people like them more" (I reckon he got that out of a creative writing class) and also builds up tension. Tension to the point of nauseating boredom. I think if I didn't hear about what kind of animal the intern likes hunting on the weekend, or what song someone's parrot at home likes to sing, the book would be a good 100pp shorter.
-- Oh, and we need the word "intern"
...more
Jill
Since March 2014 an epidemic of Ebola virus—specifically the Ebola Zaire strain—has been ravaging West Africa. More than 800 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have died so far. Here’s what Richard Preston has to say about Ebola Zaire in The Hot Zone:
It attacks connective tissue with particular ferocity; it multiples in collagen, the chief constituent protein of the tissue that holds the organs together. In this way, collagen in the body turns to mush, and the underlayers of the skin d
...more
Will Byrnes
A major page turner about Ebola. It is not fiction, but reads like it. A must read for anyone interested in potential biological time bombs.

10/19/14 - I know, hardly a review at all. I was not writing reviews back then. But Richard Preston was interviewed by Alexandra Alter for the NY Times this week and it seems a particularly worthwhile read, given the content of the book and the current hysteria.

Updating a Chronicle of Suffering: Author of ‘The Hot Zone’ Tracks Ebola’s Evolution

Sam
Technically this book isn't a horror book. But it comes close. I literally lost sleep over this book because of its graphic portrayals of Ebola and Marburg virus. It's probably not the best time to read this book either, what with what's going on in West Africa and the two American citizens down with Ebola Zaire virus.
JonSnow
5/5! Terrifying, exciting, intriguing, and did I say terrifying? Yes, words themselves bring terror. I started reading this in light of the recent West African Ebola outbreak. I was curious, and my roommate had mentioned the book was apparently regarded as terrifying by Stephen King. Realizing I owned a copy, I quickly finished The Portrait of a Lady, and read this.

I'm not great at reviewing books but, my thoughts are this:

I almost gave it 4/5 because the last 40-50 pages slowed down a lot, but,
...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
Ericka
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
Nathan
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
Neesha
The first time I read (well, started reading) this book I was in junior high...and I read the first chapter and was terrified...so 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
Lou
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
Kristel
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.
Checkman
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.
Rade
Jun 12, 2014 Rade rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
Scary as shit book. Makes you think what kind of things are going around the world behind closed doors where people in Hazmat suits are handling viruses that will make you bleed out of every orifices in your body. Besides the obvious ones, it will also melt your organs, give you high temperature, make you bloated, separate skin from the muscles, make your testicles change color and peel (yikes, as a guy, this was painful to read), give you red eyes, make you throw up (A LOT).

Seriously, these we
...more
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
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
Ben
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
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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.
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.” 70 likes
“To mess around with Ebola is an easy way to die. Better to work with something safer, such as anthrax.” 24 likes
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