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

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  104,505 ratings  ·  5,621 reviews
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" virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising accou ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 15th 1999 by Anchor Books (first published December 1994)
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Lynne Oh yes, I agree. If you aren't scared of the Ebola virus get this book and read the first chapter.…moreOh yes, I agree. If you aren't scared of the Ebola virus get this book and read the first chapter.(less)
Shawn In retrospect, given the coronavirus pandemic now among us, this book was certainly not over-sensationalized.

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 ·  104,505 ratings  ·  5,621 reviews

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Start your review of The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus
Aug 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Emily May
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, nonfiction
Both species, the human and the monkey, were in the presence of another life form, which was older and more powerful than either of them, and was a dweller in blood.

I read this book on the same days I was watching the Netflix adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, which had a curious effect on me. Because, well, the TV show might be very creepy, but I have to say it is nothing compared to the horror of this book.

That's what The Hot Zone is: A true horror story.

Preston uses interviews and
Mario the lone bookwolf
Imagine what else may lurk in monkeys, bats, and rodents, just waiting to unleash the next zoonosis, possibly in a country with an already severe health crisis in the Southern hemisphere, AIDS and multiresistant tuberculosis, and hepatitis epidemics. It wouldn´t even matter that Ebola can´t be transmitted by air. Still, looking at you, secret black biological warfare program project.

It´s the way of dying that makes it even more horrible than other illnesses, being liquified with blood coming ou
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Matthew by: Pianogirl
This is one of those rare situations where I read an entire book in one sitting. This book is absolutely captivating and terrifying. It has been over 20 years since I read it and parts of it still stick with me.

This book and any of the others by Preston about viruses, pandemics, etc. are well worth your time!

Fun fact: Richard Preston is the brother of Douglas Preston of Preston & Child/Pendergast fame
May 24, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Oct 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Joe Valdez
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, medicine
The first thing to know about The Hot Zone, the 1995 bestseller by Richard Preston, is that it is not a romance novel. While men, women, exotic getaways and showers are involved, they're not the type that would cue Sade on the soundtrack. The book is based on an article by Preston published by the New Yorker in 1992 as "Crisis in the Hot Zone" but by trying to hit two targets--journalism and the thriller/suspense genre--it misses both. The rudimentary style of Preston's writing dispels the mater ...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"
Daniel Bastian
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 Christopher Nolan's Memento had a tendency to confuse its viewers. There can be no doubt that Preston delivered a vi ...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. ...more
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Was it a good idea or a terrible idea to read "The Hot Zone" during a pandemic caused by a highly contagious virus?

I kept asking myself that question as I listed to this audiobook by Richard Preston, which was a massive bestseller back in the 1990s. I remember hearing jokes about Kitum Cave and bat feces and the monkey house, and I even saw the movie "Outbreak," which was loosely inspired by this book.

But it took the world turning into an actual hot zone for me to commit to reading it, which has
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
Will Byrnes
Oct 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
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

Nov 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
L.A. Starks
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*spoiler alert* This is a good chronology of the outbreak of Ebola Reston among monkeys in Virginia in the late 1980s. (Did not affect humans, although other strains of Ebola do.) There are points where it is very deliberately-paced and other points where it Preston is graphic (readers are warned) about the devastation Ebola wreaks on people. Because of its timing the author also made many parallels with AIDS. The end of the book kind of blames overpopulation, but in fact, much smaller populatio ...more
Roy Lotz
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you suspect that you are not adequately scared of infectious diseases, I can heartily recommend this book to you.

The Hot Zone opens with a description of what the Marburg virus (a member of the Ebola family) does to your body; and I can say, with confidence, that it is one of the most disgusting things I have ever read. After telling the story of a small outbreak in Kenya (which could be traced to Kitum Cave in the shadow of Mount Elgon), the narrative shifts to Reston, Virginia, where resear
Jun 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Ebola research or public health
Richard Preston begins his story with an apocalyptic epigraph and ends with a metaphoric elegy. It's an effective literary device underscoring the necessity of placing this primal, elusive and deadly virus in a broader context, a context that incorporates historical and ecological considerations.

Ebola is a deceptively simple life form. It is a filovirus made up of seven proteins. The subtypes that are known to affect humans are Marburg, Ebola Zaire, and Ebola Sudan. No one knows how the virus is
May 23, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Ebola is a horrific disease and the holocaust such a virus could wreak is terrifying. Books on diseases like this usually conjure up existential dread which sits uncomfortably with the sense that one is gawking at a car crash.

This is not one of the books. The first chapter is terrifying, and the story of monkeys imported from the Philippines who developed airborne infective strains could in the hands of a more restrained man have been genuinely sobering. However Mr. Preston is not a restrained m
Mike (the Paladin)
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
Laura Noggle
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, nonfiction, history
*At least it’s not Ebola.* 🤷🏻‍♀️

The 1995 movie Outbreak was based on this book.

*Gruesome.* And difficult to read at times. Nightmare fuel.

Outstanding Quotes:

“He liked the loneliness of inner space, the sense of being forgotten by the world.”

“Humans in space suits make monkeys nervous.”

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”

“In a sense, the Earth is mounting an immune response against the human species. It is beginning to react to the human parasite, the flooding infection of people, the dead spots
Katie Ziegler (Life Between Words)
About the time this book was published, I was in elementary school and first learning about Ebola. I have no memory of *where* I heard about Ebola. Was it a science textbook? The news? Who knows. All I know is that it left an impression. Mostly the impression that Ebola is probably one of the most unpleasant ways to die. An incurable virus that basically liquifies you from the inside out...ugh. Anyway, I read this book for a readathon, and the prompt was read a book about a childhood fear. CHECK ...more
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
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Chris Berko
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very scary and fast paced read that is all the more terrifying because it is true. The author did an excellent job juggling the scope of the story between the potentially-globe-wide-extinction-level-catastrophe stuff and then the smaller personal scale "are-we-gonna-die-or-not" stuff by letting the happenings unfold through the eyes of a handful of different characters who were there for it all. The depth of research is apparent and thorough and while I did feel like I was learning while being ...more
Aug 14, 2012 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)

Horace Derwent
Jan 20, 2020 is currently reading it
horrendous, true nightmares, what if it happened right around me? just can't imagine that

Stephen King said the beginning part of this book was the scariest stuff he'd ever read in his life, i totally agree with him, cuz it's really scarier than any horror story I've read

i'd rather be turning to shit than getting infected with marburg or ebola

the third time I'm reading this
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
UPDATE Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, a group of friends read this outstanding and terrifying work of nonfiction in March of 2020. Of course, I re-read it with them! It is obviously far more meaningful now in 2020 than it ever was before, but it will also hit you with how much governmental response to the risk of contagious illnesses has NOT changed since this real world incident occurred.

Read this for the crystalline caves, mummified baby elephants if nothing else. Richard Preston is one of
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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.

Articles featuring this book

"Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete...
65 likes · 8 comments
“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.” 112 likes
“To mess around with Ebola is an easy way to die. Better to work with something safer, such as anthrax.” 37 likes
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