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The Hot Zone

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  75,651 Ratings  ·  3,868 Reviews
As the tropical wildernesses of the world are destroyed, previously unknown viruses that have lived for eons are entering human populations. The Hot Zone is the hair-raising story of how a strain of one such virus (even more infectious and horrible than HIV) showed up in 1989 in a Virginia laboratory--and of the efforts of a military bio-hazard SWAT team to identify the vi ...more
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published September 20th 1994 by Random House (NY)
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Andrea Lightfoot I've read this book (The Hot Zone by Richard Preston)
It starts with Ebola's sister virus, Marburg. Then Ebola is mentioned. Both are similar in shape…more
I've read this book (The Hot Zone by Richard Preston)
It starts with Ebola's sister virus, Marburg. Then Ebola is mentioned. Both are similar in shape (i.e. they are long and wormlike, and are known as members of the filoviridae family.

Community Reviews

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Aug 17, 2007 Oddmix rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 22, 2007 Charissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 24, 2007 Tortla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 16, 2009 Hannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Aug 26, 2009 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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. :( it looks like I might literally not be able to read this book...

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
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.
Daniel Bastian
Jun 10, 2012 Daniel Bastian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
The subtitle for Richard Preston's 1994 bestseller reads: "The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus." How much you enjoy The Hot Zone might just hinge on what you know about Ebola going in and, by extension, how seriously you take that subtitle. To say that Preston took artistic liberties is akin to saying Ayn Rand held only a little contempt for Marxism or that Memento had a tendency to confuse its viewers. There can be no doubt that Preston delivered a vivid and hair-raising ...more
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"
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
Nov 26, 2007 Christine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 14, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely terrifying true story with very descriptive details of the horrors resulting from a highly infectious and deadly virus brought into the US from central African rain forests in the 1980's. WHEW! What a nightmare!

(view spoiler)

Wayne Barrett

I put this book on my list about a year ago because I had seen it on a list of what was considered the top scariest novels. I was surprised to see that it was a non-fiction story, but now that I have read it I must agree that it is one of the most frightening tales I have read. And isn't that usually the case with the true ones anyway?

Like most others, I have heard the news concerning major viruses like Ebola and HIV and even the histories of events like the black plague of the Dark Ages, but I
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
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

Jul 29, 2012 Jill rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, african
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

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
Maria Nes-Li
Apr 26, 2012 Maria Nes-Li rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 29, 2009 Mike (the Paladin) rated it really liked it
A true story that surpasses a lot of fiction. It will will quite possibly keep you up nights....


Wow, I got a "Like" on the short review above, Thanks. LOL

I read this book sometime back and it is really thought provoking. It gives a look at filoviruses, their history in human diseases (at least from the time they were recognized into the book's present. We take a look at AIDS but we also look at Ebola.

This includes Ebola Reston a mutation of the Ebola virus that became extremely easy to
Terri Lynn
Jul 09, 2011 Terri Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 14, 2014 Rade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 14, 2014 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, health
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.
Arun Divakar
Aug 01, 2016 Arun Divakar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book….it horrified me with just one chapter ! My usual circumlocutory approach in talking about a book’s storyline has taken fright and flown off to hide among the rafters when I sat down to write this review. This book is major league scary and it talks about a very frightening organism. Let me diverge a bit, a few days ago while catching up on the trailers from comic-con I watched the trailer for ‘Kong : Skull Island’. It was perhaps a day or two after I finished reading the book and watc ...more
Feb 14, 2013 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, health
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
Edward Newton
Jul 21, 2013 Edward Newton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Chance Maree
Jun 02, 2015 Chance Maree rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As a scientific thriller, this book was hard to put down. I've lived through the news reports on Ebola over the years, but Preston makes it real with the same level of detail used in good fiction. He added insights into inner dialogue through interviews with folks from doctors to military personnel-- all seemed very authentic. Therefore, the accidents, misjudgements, etc, give an accurate view of humans under stress operating under denial, then panic. This is a fascinating, and gruesome read. On ...more
Jul 16, 2012 Ericka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 10, 2007 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hypochondriacs.
Shelves: history, science
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
Nov 10, 2007 Neesha rated it liked it
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
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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.
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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.” 96 likes
“To mess around with Ebola is an easy way to die. Better to work with something safer, such as anthrax.” 32 likes
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