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The Demon in the Freezer

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  13,397 ratings  ·  1,031 reviews
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 first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published 2002 by Headline
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Mario the lone bookwolf
Smallpox and anthrax are just the 2 main protagonists of this novel, but there are many others out there, some unknown or still to evolve.

One has to look at the potential quantity (not quality lol, they nearly killed themselves because of incompetence) of the Soviet biowarfare program
and extrapolate the potential to now and the future to understand the sheer dimension of it.

Much of the research has the potential to cure all illnesses, as especially viru
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.

Richard Preston - image from NY Times

In October 2001, a photo-retoucher for the National Enquirer died as a result of a deliberate attack with anthra
Will M.
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"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'
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.
Oct 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical, audio, nonfiction
“The dream of total eradication had failed, the viruses last strategy was to bewitch its host and become a source of power. We could eradicate smallpox from nature but we could not uproot the virus from the human heart.”

My mother has a smallpox vaccine scar on her arm and I do not. That I’ve never had to worry about it is thanks largely to Donald Ainslie Henderson. That I may have to worry about it in the future is the fault of well meaning, and possibly narcissistic, scientists, forgetful v
Nick Borrelli
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love reading non-fiction that feels like fiction. Although this book was interesting, it didn’t blow me away nearly as much as Richard Preston’s other book, The Hot Zone. The subject matter (smallpox and anthrax) is fascinating, but there’s far more scientific details in this one, a bit too much for my liking. I think that this book would have been better if he had stuck to just smallpox. The back and forth between smallpox and anthrax was a bit distracting. I think that the anthrax part is re ...more
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it

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
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this terrifying work of nonfiction ages ago, but it still sticks with me and is one of those books that entirely changed my political viewpoint on something. Yes, it was that powerful.

Do y'all remember the Gulf War? Desert Storm? I was about 30 when all that was going on, and it was the first time people started keeping the "new" 24 hour news stations on all the time. At the time, I couldn't believe that Saddam Hussein was invading other countries - it was like something out of WWII to me
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
Mar 29, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Nov 25, 2018 rated it liked it
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
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
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
May 01, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't like this one at all...
This is my second (and likely last) from author Richard Preston.
I was interested to hear a more in-depth take on the Anthrax attacks of 2001. The book's narrative jumps around quite a lot; talking about Ebola, AIDS, Smallpox, vaccinations, and other assorted topics. It only spends a fraction of its pages on the 2001 attacks, and even less on the anthrax bacillus...
I think his writing style is what grates on me the most; there's just something I find seriously lack
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
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Eldon Farrell
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-my-kindle
A very eye opening and ultimately sad read. To know we came so close to eradicating this disease and then, through human hubris, came up short. Very sad indeed.

Only complaint about this book on Smallpox is I wish it had been more about Smallpox. A lot of information on other diseases not central to the topic.
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
Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: No one, really.
I was disappointed by this book. While the subject matter is potentially fascinating: Researching biological terrorism and the remaining smallpox virus in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks-- the delivery was sterile and unengaging. Those who read the book for squeamish details will be bored, those who expected a novel will be disappointed. While the information contained therein is useful, the delivery left much to be desired. It would be easier and faster to simply read the CDC website.
Erik Graff
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: biological warfare fans
Recommended to Erik by: Kelly Kingdon
Shelves: sciences
Author Preston has written both non-fiction and fiction, the style of the thriller being reflected in this factual account of the bioterror threat as it existed in 2002, the time of publication.

'The Demon in the Freezer' is a disquieting account of how infectious diseases such as smallpox, Ebola and anthrax, diseases which have devastated populations in the past, have the potential to destroy human civilization. The one 'happy' story is that of how the World Health Organization removed smallpox
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am giving this 5-stars. It was very well written and informative. An eye opener for sure, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic in our current world. The last few pages were poignant when predicting the spread of future viruses, health care in third world countries (and even our own apparently) and population surges—how quickly the spread can be and how dire it may become if not curtailed.
Meghna Mandava
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
not as good as the hot zone, was kind of difficult to follow for the first half. still terrifying
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: electronic
just evil

had me checking my left arm for the scar
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
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.
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.
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!
May 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
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.
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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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Whether it’s magic schools, dystopias, paranormal love stories, or contemporary explorations of important real-life issues, young adult books a...
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“Epidemiologists think that smallpox killed roughly one billion people during its last hundred years of activity on earth.” 4 likes
“Doctors generally consider smallpox to be the worst human disease. It is thought to have killed more people than any other infectious pathogen, including the Black Death of the Middle Ages. Epidemiologists think that smallpox killed roughly one billion people during its last hundred years of activity onearth.” 3 likes
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