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

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  85,284 ratings  ·  4,379 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"
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 15th 1999 by Anchor Books (first published December 1994)
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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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4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  85,284 ratings  ·  4,379 reviews

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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 f
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.
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
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
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 Memento had a tendency to confuse its viewers. There can be no doubt that Preston delivered a vivid and hair-raising ...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.
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
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"
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
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
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)

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
Jul 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african, nonfiction
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
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
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

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
Alice Cai
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star

It was ok. The ending was kind of a twist. I kind of got bored of Ebola after awhile. Ebola is a filovirus. It causes blood clots then fucks up the organs. It was kind of hard to enjoy this book when I keep hearing how inaccurate it is (over dramatized) and then in real life this guy I work with who is a scientist says he has read the book and it's not really realistic.

I feel like this book is "entertaining for non-fiction". Also I think this book would be a lot of fun for people who are sup
Maria Nes-Li
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Aug 11, 2011 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
Terri Lynn
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Arun Divakar
Aug 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Sacrificing the monkeys had been a difficult, disgusting, and disheartening task. He knew there was a disease in this room, and yet these monkeys were beautiful, healthy animals, and he had just killed them.”

You’re not going to find stories of hundreds of people dying of Ebola, of tense movie drama outbreaks, more like villages in Africa depopulating and Westerners having close calls. The book is about the first research into Ebola.

I’ve read several science mass markets that touch on how an
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Venus Maneater
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, gifts
My husband is a nurse in one of the busiest hospitals of a city that holds the largest port in Europe and I'm already way too paranoid, so reading this book was not a good idea.

It's one of the scariest non-fiction books I have ever read - the entire first part, that describes the evolution of the virus and its effects on the human body is plain old Cronenberg-style body horror. It sets the tone and keeps you on the edge of your seat as you follow the many lives that the viruses have touched.

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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.” 97 likes
“To mess around with Ebola is an easy way to die. Better to work with something safer, such as anthrax.” 33 likes
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