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The Demon in the Freezer

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,074 Ratings  ·  683 Reviews
“The bard of biological weapons captures
the drama of the front lines.”

-Richard Danzig, former secretary of the navy

The first major bioterror event in the United States-the anthrax attacks in October 2001-was a clarion call for scientists who work with “hot” agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer, his f
ebook, 256 pages
Published October 8th 2002 by Random House (first published January 1st 2002)
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Will M.
"We could eradicate smallpox from nature, but we could not uproot the virus from the human heart."

I will be honest and say that I am a bit genre ignorant. I only read genres that are of my interest, and ignore those that seem daunting and boring. Non-fiction is not my usual genre, but medical science is. I decided to give this novel a try out of the blue. I'm not new to medical science, in fact, I studied Microbiology for a whole semester, and Mycology and Virology for another semester. I didn'
Will Byrnes
Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. I expect the end of the world, the people part of it in any case, is likeliest to be the result of loose pathogens. In Demon in the Freezer, published in 2002, Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone and The Cobra Event takes a look at two of the top candidates for the job, smallpox and anthrax.

In October 2001, a photo-retoucher for the National Enquirer died as a result of a deliberate attack with anthrax. While the CDC was looking in to th
Oct 24, 2008 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I was in bed for a few days with a terrible flu -- fever, chills, coughing, etc... But this book really cheered me up since with its vivid description of how one dies from Smallpox -- bloody pistules covering the body, lucidity until the end despite intense pain -- I realized my suffering was sort of at the low end of possibilities! I've really become drawn to the science thriller genre these days, and while this book is nonfiction, its narrative and page-turning suspense makes it feel like a ...more
Mar 15, 2016 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is terrifying! I wish it was fiction . . . I spent the entire book itching and squirming. The descriptions of small pox are harrowing - not for the faint of heart (if I recall, there are some pictures too). But, it is riveting, so if you like a good non-fiction thriller that might make you scared to go outside (or touch anything!), this is the book for you. Preston is really good at writing this type of novel.
Jul 18, 2014 LeeAnne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Do not read this during cough and flu season or if you think you might be coming down with a cold!

Do you remember the first ever bio-terror attack on U.S. soil when envelops full of anthrax were sent through the U.S. mail system to various places in the U.S.? It was in October 2001, a few months after the 9-11 attacks. If Smallpox had been used instead of Anthrax, we might not being around today to talk about it.

The author gives the reader a brief history of smallpox. Although smallpo
Apr 24, 2012 Punk rated it really liked it
Recommended to Punk by: Merryish
Non-Fiction. If you're looking to become bugfuck paranoid about smallpox, then this is the book for you. Act now and you'll receive a heightened awareness of anthrax at no additional cost!

An in-depth look at the history of smallpox, the enormous international effort undertaken to eradicate the virus, and just how vulnerable we are to it now. Also the many ways Russia, North Korea, and Iraq are probably going to kill us with genetically engineered bioweapons.

Basically after reading this you're ne
Ack! We're all going to die from smallpox! No, wait... we're all going to die from anthrax! No, wait... we're all going to die from anthrax-laced smallpox! No, wait... MONKEYPOX is going to get us! Or is it mousepox? Meh. Whatever.

This is the second book I've read from Richard Preston. You'd have thought that I'd have run screaming from his writing after reading The Hot Zone. But, no. I had to read more. Granted, it has been many years since the mere thought of recycled air on a plane gave me th
Dec 03, 2012 Jeffro rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had Preston focused solely on smallpox, this story could have been on the level with HOT ZONE. By trying to weave the anthrax attacks of 2001, Preston fractured the narrative and lost momentum with the larger story (the history, eradication, and bio-warfare threat of a resurrected smallpox virus). I felt he tried to connect the two to the detriment of the story. Bummed to say the least. THE DEMON IN THE FREEZER had real potential. It just wasn't met. With that said, I am looking forward to readi ...more
Apr 15, 2016 diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm pissed off. Not at the book, not at the author, but the thing that happens to smallpox in this book. It's fucked up and ... I can't decide if it's suicidal idiocy or homicidal idiocy.

They (WHO, doctors, governments worldwide) managed, with great effort and sacrifice, to eradicate smallpox in the wild. 1978 was the last known case of natural human infection of smallpox.

And then what happens? Samples of the virus are kept on ice. "For study"? And then? The Russians manufacture TONS of the stu
Nicole R
Last week, vials of what turned out to be viable smallpox where found in a refrigerator on a National Institutes of Health Campus in Maryland. Date on the vial: 1954. Many people probably just scoffed and moved on to the next news story but what they may not have known is that smallpox is considered the most deadly human virus and is responsible for killing hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century before eradicated in 1980. Vaccines are no longer given, the vaccines given to our older ...more
David Galloway
Mar 06, 2012 David Galloway rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
This is a chilling account of the eradication of smallpox in the 1970s, the Anthrax mailings in 2001, and the possibility of future bioterrorism using genetically-modified strains of smallpox designed to infect even those vaccinated against the disease.

Officially variola majora (smallpox) only exists in freezers in the Centers for Disease Control and in the Russian Vector lab. Through interviews with those involved with the eradication and working to prevent bioterrorism a strong case is made fo
Long story short: Smallpox. Bioterrorism. Forget about your potty debates. We're all doomed. The end.

However, I do highly recommend reading the longer version! Just beware, it may make for some sleepless nights and/or paranoia.

Notes from my 2013 attempt at reading the book: Good book, just scares the hell out of me! Hopefully I can gather my wits about me enough to be able to finish this one day!
Jan 15, 2015 Kacee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super interesting!! I really didn't know much about smallpox, and this book was very eye opening. I wish I had a different "star" rating system for books that I am really glad I read, but that weren't quite up there among my favs. I guess three stars will have to do.
Mar 01, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and horrifying. I had no idea how awful smallpox is(was), nor how incredibly infectious it is. (Only three to five particles of the virus is an infectious dose and, since the particles are so incredibly tiny, they float in the air like smoke. You can catch smallpox merely by being in the same building as someone who is infected.)

Preston goes through the natural history of smallpox, the concerted efforts to eradicate it, and then the alarming efforts to weaponize it. At the collapse
Fascinating and scary as hell.
Jun 14, 2016 Mauri rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, medical
Perhaps not the greatest book for the almost completely trained epidemiologist and maybe not for the general public too.

The epidemiologist will likely be bored, unless they've been buried in cancer epi classes or something and miss their ID lectures. If you're looking to read everything ever written on smallpox, you might as well skim this, but there's nothing new or earth-shattering here.

For the general public looking to bone up on ways you can die while drowning in your own blood, I ask you to
As much as I loved/was terrified of The Hot Zone, I did not feel the same about this book. The book jumps around quite a bit and is a little hard to follow along, so I kept waiting to see how the author would connect all the dots, and was left a little disappointed in the story-telling overall.

It starts out discussing smallpox and its supposed eradication in the 70s. Then it switches to the various poxes that exist (seriously, there's one for practically every creature roaming the planet), and a
Sep 01, 2009 Tina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you thought Preston's The Hot Zone and the movie Outbreak were scary, hold onto your hats. In this nonfiction narrative, which Preston published in 2002 on the heels of 9/11, he tells of a more tangible threat to the world than any other communicable disease; one which, up until quite recently, was the greatest scourge ever to afflict to mankind, and yet you've probably never known anyone or seen anyone who has ever experienced it -- smallpox. It is a killer perfectly tailored by nature to th ...more
Oct 10, 2012 Jillian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Preston is a master of presenting narrative nonfiction like a blockbuster movie. This is an easy-to-read, accessible, page-turning account that never sacrifices intelligence and accountability.

The story, a wide-reaching presentation on the smallpox virus, is like a biological thriller. From the first instance of Preston revealing that smallpox only "officially" exists in two pages, a sense of dread and doom is laid out for the readers, and we know that not only is that not true, but suc
Apr 10, 2009 Caitlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
Another book that will give you some serious nightmares. Really cool & interesting stuff on how smallpox was eradicated by a huge team of people all over the world. At some point it was thought that the only smallpox left in the world was at the CDC in Atlanta & at a Russian virology facility.

Then came the 1980's & pretty good evidence that the Russians were conducting research on weaponizing smallpox. Meanwhile, US eradicated its supply of vaccine (to save money) - leaving us with a
EJ Johnson
Apr 22, 2008 EJ Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults
Recommended to EJ by: Michael Jenny
I enjoyed this book about using smallpox in bioterrism. It took me a long time to read it because I didn't think I could read it before going to bed or it would keep me awake. I would definately recommend it but not to people who start obsessing and worrying about everything. Being cynical, I wish the author had put in footnotes or a bibliography so his sources could be checked. I liked the personal portrait of the people but I wish I had marked the intros so I could refer back to them when the ...more
Science history made intense in the telling. This book briefly relates the histories of both smallpox and anthrax, particularly smallpox's record as the deadliest disease in history and its persistence in that role right up to a time within living memory for many of us who are middle-aged today. The author goes on with the story of the eradication of smallpox outside of laboratories, and finally the account of the weaponization of both diseases - anthrax as actually used in the anthrax terror at ...more
Aug 14, 2013 Francoise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Preston takes the reader on a horrifying tour through the world of Smallpox, which killed more people in the Middle Ages than the bubonic plague, though not in such a short period of time. And furthermore, it continued killing people in horrific fashion until the 70's and 80's when the great Eradication actually managed to eliminate smallpox in the wild by rushing to location of any reported case and doing a ring of vaccinations around that person. They thus prevented the virus from leaving the ...more
Oct 28, 2012 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent scientific thriller - Preston writes with such passion that it feels like fiction and is all the more horrifying because it all occurred. He looks at the anthrax attacks that followed 9/11 and describes the transmission of the bacteria. Then he takes us on a journey through the great Eradication of smallpox - A singularly significant medical achievement. Smallpox is a vile disease that makes AIDS and Ebola seem tame in comparison. However, there was an undercurrent that Preston brings ...more
Peter Cawdron
Jan 05, 2015 Peter Cawdron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A chilling and precise look at the most deadly diseases on the planet, and a wonderful testimony to the value of vaccines (take heed antivaxers).

Ignorance is the greatest enemy humanity has ever faced. Once scientists began detecting patterns in how smallpox spread and recognized those with cowpox were immune, we were able to undertake a systematic program to eradicate a disease that has claimed the lives of 500 million people!

The writing is a little old-school, but this book is well worth the
Claire Bull
Richard Preston does a great job with crisis or catastrophe or OMG books. This is one. I read this a long time ago but I did want to say that it was excellent and I remember thinking I should read it again. But I do think that with a lot of his books. He researches to the max and then goes with it and a lot of his books are based on reality and who knew reality could be this scary. I would have to look this up again. But I just wanted to say it was worth it and worth reading again. Maybe I shoul ...more
Katie Herring
Dec 08, 2014 Katie Herring rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was more scientific than his previous, and it was more historical. I cried in this one, too.

I've never thought about smallpox before, and I'd like to go back to not thinking about it. I don't think it's gone, but I hope it stays in the freezer.

Jun 05, 2016 Debi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part mystery novel, part science text, scary as hell. Informative and sobering look at how easy it could be for a country or rogue scientist to initiate a bio-terrorist attack.
Sailor Dowden
This was a somewhat fascinating read. I'd never known about the smallpox attacks right after 9/11, or just how scary the threat of smallpox was until this book. While it was interesting, several times throughout the book it would switch from an outbreak happening in the 90's to the eradication in the 80's, back to the months after 9/11, etc. This constant flip flop of settings made it confusing at times. And being an animal lover, I hated the parts where it discussed the experiments on monkeys..
Nov 05, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my greatest fears is BioTerrorism. This book discusses many examples of items like small pox, anthrax, animal testing. It is absolutely gross and increased my fears even more. UGH. Richard Preston is an excellent writer, but what he talks about is really really scary to me.

You thought that smallpox had been eradicated and that the remaining seeds of the virus had been destroyed. You would be wrong. You thought that the smallpox vaccination that you got 50 years ago is still protecting yo
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The DEMON IN The Freezer 2 19 Dec 20, 2012 11:20PM  
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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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“Epidemiologists think that smallpox killed roughly one billion people during its last hundred years of activity on earth.” 2 likes
“On May 14th, 1796, Jenner scratched the arm of a boy named James Phipps, introducing into his skin a droplet of cowpox pus that he had scraped from a blister on the hand of Sarah Nelmes, a dairy worker. He called this pus “the Vaccine Virus”—the word vaccine is derived from the Latin word for cow. The boy developed a single pustule on his arm, and it healed rapidly. A few months later, Jenner scratched the boy’s arm with lethal infective pus that he had taken from a smallpox patient—today, this is called a challenge trial. The boy did not come down with smallpox. Edward Jenner had discovered and named vaccination—the practice of infecting a person with a mild or harmless virus in order to strengthen his or her immunity to a similar disease-causing virus. “It now becomes too manifest to admit of controversy, that the annihilation of the Small Pox, the most dreadful scourge of the human species, must be the final result of this practice,” Jenner wrote in 1801.” 1 likes
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