Book Review of The Hot Zone A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston

Imagine that the person sitting next to you is completely unaware of the fact that he is the host of a deadly virus. Imagine that this person has interacted with countless of people in one day and all of those people have also interacted with other people and so on, spreading the virus unknowingly. Then a seemingly ordinary flu begins, followed by body pains and the frightening liquefaction of the bodys internal organs to the outer layers of the skin, leading ultimately to nowhere else but death.

It is, undeniably, a living nightmare which is immortalized in print by Richard Prestons The Hot Zone A Terrifying True Story. The story is based on the  events between 1967 to 1993  (Preston n.p.) wherein an outbreak of the Ebola and Marburg viruses have occurred, killing huge numbers of people.

Book Summary
The novel begins with a description of a French expatriate man named Charles Monet who is living a solitary life on a  plantation in western Kenya  (Preston 3). Monet is said to be a man who is significantly well-accustomed to the company of animals, and that he has a comforting effect on them however, this particular characters life is short-lived, and he was struck with a mysterious virus which eventually resulted in an excruciatingly painful and gruesome death.

Monet was traveling by plane, and unknown to the people around him, he was not merely airsick he was suffering from a dangerous illness which can contaminate the plane and can be contracted by other passengers. He began vomiting blood, and his nose was bleeding (Preston 14) and much more gruesome details which makes it clear that this man was suffering from something which cannot be taken lightly.

Also, the hospital personnel, Dr. Shem Mosuke, who handled him eventually got ill, for the man vomited blood on the his eyes (Preston 20), which shows that the illness the Frenchman contracted was contagious and extremely dangerous to anyone who might have been exposed to it. The doctor, however, was able to survive the virus, and he was few of the individuals who survived despite being infected.

The first few chapters of the book tells a interweaving story of the places wherein outbreaks occurred, as well as thorough descriptions of the deaths of the individuals who contracted the virus. Eventually, the U.S.A Army gets involved in the investigation of the virus and the outbreaks. The people involved in studying the virus wore protective suits in order to avoid contraction of the virus, and they were working in what was referred to as hot zones.

These hot zones eventually play a large factor in the spiral of events that occur accidents were ready to happen at any moment and people were at risk of contamination and there is no assurance that they would eventually find a cure for the deadly disease. These people in constant danger because exposure to the virus can increase their mortality, and though these people wore protective suits, there was still a possibility that they could come in direct contact with the virus.

One of the principal characters in the novel is Dr. Nancy Jaax she is one of the scientists involved in the research of the virus and its cure. While she was working on a dead monkey infected by the virus, she almost got infected because her safety glove tore, exposing her open wound she got from home. She, however, does not get infected by the blood of the contaminated monkey.

However, there are also some characters in the novel, such as Peter Cardinal and Nurse Mayinga, who were located in different areas, were not able to avoid getting infected and suffered the same fate as Monet did. Cardinal was a young boy who visited Kitum Cave, and contracted the a virus which was in the same family as the Ebola virus.  Nurse Mayinga, on the other hand, got infected by a nun whom she interacted with who carried the virus.

Kitum Cave is an important factor in the research on the Ebola virus, particularly because a lot of the individuals who visited the cave got infected by the virus. The researchers of the Ebola virus believed that Kitum Cave may have been where the virus originated. In the final pages of the book, the author, Richard Preston, decided to travel to Africa so that he may be able to visit Kitum Cave. He enters the cave wearing a Hazmat suit, and finds that the cave contains quite a population of animals which may he believed be carrying the Ebola virus.

The story is intriguing, despite the fact that it is gruesome  it would either be that the reader would stop reading from utter disgust, or the reader will continue reading due to the fact that he or she has been ultimately hooked in the kind of fear presented in the story. Although the story clearly revolves on fear, it also carries some form of drama, for the reader will not only be afraid for the characters in the story, he or she will also feel some form of pity towards them due to the unfortunate circumstances they have to face.

Apart from this, since the story is a true event, this somehow adds more appeal to the reader. Although the author may have changed some of the names in the story, the fact that it is a real life event generates interest, particularly because of the fact that such events are not mere imagination they can actually happen.

It is not unknown that books based on real-life events appeal to readers, especially because the story feels more rooted to reality compared to other stories since the storyline is not merely based on real-life events but an actual real-life event, the reader can actually visualize the event occurring in real life, thus, there is a higher possibility that people will be able to relate to the story.

Content Presentation
Richard Prestons The Hot Zone can instill fear and anxiety amongst its readers, primarily because it carries vivid descriptions of the events and of the instances that occur to people. One example of a vivid line from the book which shows the effect of the Ebola virus goes  ... connective tissue, skin, and organs, already peppered with dead spots, heated by fever, and damaged by shock, begin to liquefy, and the fluids that leak from the body are saturated with Ebola-virus particles    (Preston 82). If one will visualize this particular line, it would be realized that there is a form of liquid leaking from the body and that this liquid is actually liquefied internal organs.

If one would take a minute to analyze the aforementioned sentence, it would be realized that the author has just told his reader that the Ebola virus liquefies the victims internal organs thus the copious vomiting and nose-bleeding. In a sense, the person with the virus is melting from the inside, since the virus has eaten the flesh of the individual. The author does not disappoint when it comes to gruesome details and descriptions, and this provides the reader with realistic imagery.

However, despite the fact that the author is able to present his story in a creative manner particularly gruesome, yes the author has included a lot of medical and technical words that may either confuse or annoy the reader. A lot of people are inclined to read books for their entertainment value, and if the reader fails to understand a lot of words included in the book, the books entertainment value decreases. Readers would not appreciate having to crack open a dictionary in order to find what a word means. While the author has provided the reader a glossary, it can eventually become tiresome to flip to the end of the book and back only to look for the meaning of a word.

This novel may not be horror story, but it is certainly one of the scariest books anyone will ever read. The vividly gruesome details of people suffering from the Ebola virus and its symptoms such as vomiting blood, nose-bleeding, and internal liquefaction is enough to give anyone nightmares. The author was able to provide a realistic presentation of the events that have occurred regarding the outbreak of Ebola virus and the domino effect it has on different areas and different people. This novel is chilling, and truth be told, it may not be for the faint of heart.

In an overall analysis of the novel, it could be said that its authors ultimate purpose is to provide people with an insight on how the Ebola virus and its other strains can damage humankind. However, there remains the question on what lesson is to be learned from this particular historical-event-turned-book. While it has certainly been an informative book, there is the issue on how such information can eventually cause hype and mass paranoia.


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