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The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  11,605 ratings  ·  865 reviews
On December 9, 1979, smallpox, the most deadly human virus, ceased to exist in nature. After eradication, it was confined to freezers located in just two places on earth: the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and the Maximum Containment Laboratory in Siberia. But these final samples were not destroyed at that time, and now secret stockpiles of smallpox surely exist. Fo ...more
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Published October 8th 2002 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2002)
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4.11  · 
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 ·  11,605 ratings  ·  865 reviews


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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'
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HFK
You can count on Richard Preston delivering fast paced nonfiction thriller where you can physically feel the race toward the inevitable apocalyptic ending closing in around you. In other words, his work always reads like a work of an almost-hysterical alarmist.

And I like it, mostly because he has a good reason to sound like an almost-hysterical alarmist, and because I have been spellbound by viruses and bacteria since I could read. I wore filovirus shirts before it was made cool by the 2014 ebol
...more
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
...more
Matthew
Mar 06, 2014 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.
Kim
Oct 24, 2008 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
Nick T. Borrelli
Holy shit, the scariest book I've ever read. Smallpox is no joke. makes you wonder if it's still around being stored by a world government ready to unleash it again as the ultimate biological weapon. A must read. Had me up nights.
LeeAnne


Warning:
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
...more
Cynthia
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
...more
Punk
Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Annie
Nov 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Not quite as heart-pounding as Preston's The Hot Zonewhich had me seeing the world differently for a few weeks, but not a bad book at all.

For fans of The Hot Zone, we get to revisit some of our familiar characters and settings. Notably USAMRIID, the government virus research facility, and the scientists Peter Jahrling and Nancy Jaax, both stationed there.

The book seems like it's going to be about anthrax, based on the opening chapter, but in fact anthrax is but a tiny part of this book, which
...more
Michelle
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
...more
David Galloway
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
...more
Jeffro
Dec 03, 2012 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
Meera
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cool..
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
it'chy
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: soft
just evil

had me checking my left arm for the scar
Kathryn
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diana
This is a non-fiction book about the eradication of the smallpox virus world wide and how that helped to solve the mystery behind the Anthrax letters sent out to well-known and famous people after 9/11. This is actually a scary book, reading about the fact that though they once had Smallpox under control they now have no clue who really has stockpiles of it. I enjoyed reading the book and plan on reading others by this author.
catzkc
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!
Evalina
May 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical, non-fiction
This is a good book on viruses for those who are not as familiar with them. I have studied them before so I found the material redundant. Preston does a good job at explaining the topic and the intricacies of what a virus is and what it does, however it was a smidgen boring for me. I would have liked to have read more about patients affected as individual cases.
Kacee
Sep 10, 2014 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.
Trudi
Fascinating and scary as hell.
Miko Wollner
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With each new book, Richard Preston cements himself as one of the most vividly disturbing authors I have had the pleasure of reading. Having an interest in the medical field his descriptions of how simple microorganisms can fundamentally dismantle and massacre the human body is extremely disturbing yet intriguing. Touching on the possibilities of weaponized diseases and the dangers even an eradicated disease like smallpox can pose, Preston makes it clear in this book that at any time these disea ...more
Ana-Maria Bujor
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I'm moving all my horror novels to the "fairy tale section" - this thing is truly scary. I must admit that while I knew a thing or two about anthrax, I knew close to nothing about smallpox as it had been eradicated quite some time before I was born. But it's long gone, right? Well... maybe?
The history of the disease was one of the most interesting things I've read today, combined with bits abut genetics, epidemiology and international espionage. And it's chilling because it's real. Kudos
...more
Andrea
If you think you are safe from smallpox because it was eradicated in 1979 you are very much mistaken. Turns out there are metric tons of virus unaccounted for hidden around the world, some of which could be held by terrorist organizations. I was also mistaken in my assumption that the typical circular scar on my upper arm was a solid protection from any further outbreaks in the future. My immunity wore off 5 years after the initial vaccination. Another mistake this time lies with the US governme ...more
Andrea Lakly
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This terrifying little story about small pox is COMPLETELY TRUE! The ninth grade STEM kids are reading it, so I decided to get on board and see what they were reading about. The bottom line: we have the scientific capability of ending smallpox, but we don't have the political will. Also, small pox is even worse than you think it is. And vaccinating everyone won't work, so you can get over that idea. So, I'll just be over here quietly contemplating dystopian landscapes and trembling . . .
Rob Lund
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
Fantastic, in that most macabre, unsettling, and unnerving Preston way. I've really come to love his books, partly because of his thorough medical history genre. But also (mostly?) because of a masochistic love of biological horror.

This book has it all. It's reminiscent of King's "The Stand". Except this is all too real or potentially real.
Hail
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a bio nerd like me, this was very good and interesting. It was extremely formative and quite gripping.

My one gripe was the unnecessary amount of physical description for the scientists involved. I really don't care what Lisa looks like, only what she did.
Katie
So, that was creepy. Keep the scary infectious diseases away from me please.
Catherine
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and terrifying all at once.
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Goodreads Librari...: Please update page count 3 116 Mar 14, 2016 09:09AM  
The DEMON IN The Freezer 2 20 Dec 20, 2012 11:20PM  
  • Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World
  • Deadly Feasts: Tracking the Secrets of a Terrifying New Plague
  • Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC
  • The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance
  • Virus X
  • Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World--Told from the Inside by the Man Who Ran It
  • Ebola
  • Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections
  • Killer Germs: Microbes and Diseases That Threaten Humanity
  • Smallpox: The Death of a Disease: The Inside Story of Eradicating a Worldwide Killer
  • Flu: The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It
  • Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox
  • The Woman with a Worm in Her Head: And Other True Stories of Infectious Disease
  • Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service
  • Pox: Genius, Madness, And The Mysteries Of Syphilis
  • When Germs Travel: Six major epidemics that have invaded America since 1900 and the fears they have unleashed
  • Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War
  • Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory
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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.
“Epidemiologists think that smallpox killed roughly one billion people during its last hundred years of activity on earth.” 4 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.” 2 likes
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