Andres's Reviews > The Demon in the Freezer

The Demon in the Freezer by Richard   Preston
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's review
Mar 06, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: ebook

Richard Preston is at his best when he's writing fact-based accounts of deadly viruses, and Demon is right up there with The Hot Zone. This is an eye opening account of smallpox, its almost eradication, and the looming danger it may pose to people now and in the future, especially if it's genetically modified and weaponized.

Tied in with the events of the 2001 anthrax scare here in the United States, the book delves into the different governmental or military departments that will be responsible for detecting, containing, and extinguishing any bioweapon unleashed here or elsewhere, and we see how they went into action when envelopes full of weaponized anthrax were mailed to different people in the fall of 2001.

The narrative then switches gears to the story of smallpox, what it does to a human body (it's damn horrific), how long it's been around, the different varieties in different species, and how in the 20th century there was a worldwide intense effort to completely eradicate it and how now, present day, there's a question of whether certain remaining samples were turned into hundreds of tons worth of weapons. Chilling considering it only takes a few inhaled spores to infect someone, who then can infect tens more before becoming visibly sick.

So yeah, it's mostly about smallpox, kind of bookended with the anthrax scare. It wasn't until the end of the book that I realized it was published barely a year after the scare, so it doesn't get into the more recent developments (and controversies) about who was ultimately held responsible for sending those letters.

This is worth the read just for the sake of getting to know smallpox. The book was expanded from an article (with the same name as the book) that was anthologized here. I think the article is still worth reading since some things I remember from the article didn't make it into the book but are still nonetheless interesting.

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