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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book that Frightened a President
Richard Preston's novel Cobra Event reads just like his nonfiction books on biological nasties, the Hot Zone and Demon in the Freezer--making it one of the most frightening things you will ever read, particularly if you've read either of those books as the similarities make the Cobra Event seem more like a nonfictional account than a novel.
The novel's story centers...
Published on April 22, 2003 by John Nolley II

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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good research; awful writing
As all the magazine reviews have said, there's a lot of valuable research and privileged information in this book. But what may not be clear, except in the quotation from (of all places) "Entertainment Weekly", is that the writing is quite bad -- as if a very bright scholar or journalist had taken a night-school course in writing an "airport...
Published on October 19, 1999


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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book that Frightened a President, April 22, 2003
By 
John Nolley II (Fairfax, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Cobra Event (Mass Market Paperback)
Richard Preston's novel Cobra Event reads just like his nonfiction books on biological nasties, the Hot Zone and Demon in the Freezer--making it one of the most frightening things you will ever read, particularly if you've read either of those books as the similarities make the Cobra Event seem more like a nonfictional account than a novel.
The novel's story centers around a terrorist's creation and usage of "brain pox," a deadly disease derived from smallpox that infects victims' brains like encephalitis--combining the rapid and easy spread of the former with the deadly neurological effects of the latter in a horrifying biological weapon.
The characters and events laid out are so plausible that one must frequently remind oneself that the novel is indeed fictional, particularly in the historical and pseudo-historical accounts serving as background for the main story. Preston creates a believable team of investigators who must track down the terrorist behind the attacks--named by the FBI "the Cobra Event" due to their method of delivery. Although the motivations and character of the terrorist himself are somewhat flatter, overall the story could easily be featured not in a novel but on newspaper front pages.
Former President Clinton read the book and reportedly was both so fascinated and frightened that he began taking seriously the threats of biological terrorism not only from large, well-funded state labs like those of the former Soviet Union and North Koreans but also the lone, rogue terrorist, a very real threat considering the relative simplicity of creating terrible biological weapons as was demonstrated so recently by the anthrax attacks after 9/11.
Read this novel--it is a fast-paced page turner that will drive you to burn the midnight oil in finishing it--but one that will also leave you terrified as to the very real possibility of biological terrorism.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar work..., April 13, 2005
This review is from: The Cobra Event (Mass Market Paperback)
If you've never read any of Richard Preston's other books about biology (The Hot Zone and Demon in the Freezer), you're in for a treat. The three books (Cobra which is fiction, Zone and Demon which aren't) comprise his black-biology trilogy and taken in total or in part, they're scary, fact filled and speak volumes about their topics. Don't think they sound boring. I bet you won't be able to put them down once

you start reading.

The Hot Zone, which was a NYT bestseller for practically ever, is about the emergence of Ebola in Africa. This is the story of the strains of Marburg that killed 210 people this week in Angola.

The other, Demon in the Freezer is a two step story about the amazing eradication of smallpox from Earth and the anthrax terror deliveries post-9/11. If you want to know the stories behind the story, this is a good place to go.

What stands out clearly in the Cobra Event is Preston's absolute authority on the topic of biological warfare. If his facts are true, and no one since had disputed a single one of them (including President Clinton who apparently, after reading Cobra Event, ordered a feasibility study), the Iraq clearly had WMD, biological agents, etc. Preston leaves no room for doubt. What's scary is who else had access. Simply everyone and there's lots of dangerous stuff missing out there.

Now to the story. For the first time, Preston has written a novel. The story certainly engages, although it is the facts that really scare you. I recommend it to any reader who likes facts behind their story.

The story is of a terrorist planning a live laydown of a viral brain pox strain in NYC and thereby killing millions. The book is about what happens.

Anyhow, the book will scare you but it isn't the kind of scare that goes away after you finish it. This is the kind of scare that makes you write your congressman and ask what in hell they're doing to prevent the problem.

If anyone decides to read...share your opinion!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Preston's The Cobra Event: A Literary Masterpiece!, July 8, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Cobra Event (Mass Market Paperback)
When I bought The Cobra Event, I didn't think I would enjoy it. I assumed it would join the ranks of many other unfinished books that I couldn't bring myself to attempt to read again. Within the first five minutes of reading this book, I was hooked. This book is thrilling and fast-paced. Preston describes every detail with intricate wording and accuracy while not overwording the less important elements. It also raises many questions about the medical profession and diseases throughout the world. The reader also learns while reading this entertaining book. Also, unlike some novels, I glossary of scientific terms can be found in the back of the book to ensure that the reader throughly understands the happenings in the book. The element of this book that makes it impossible to put down is the thrilling suspence throughout the entire book from the first page to the final sentences. I throughly enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to any reader.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dominion Review: Cobra Event, April 4, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Cobra Event (Hardcover)
Richard Preston, in this sequel of sorts to The Hot Zone, has outdone himself. The Hot Zone, which dealt with the deadly disease Ebola, and how close we came to having Ebola strike the U.S. in the form of Ebola Reston (Reston, Virginia), was a near perfect mix of fact and fiction. Now, with The Cobra Event, dealing with biological warfare, Preston has outdone himself again. The book starts off with a death of mind-numbing brutality, caused by an unknown disease. Alice Austen, an epidemiologist from the Centers of Disease Control is sent to investigate. The implications of this new agent, a biological weapon, result in federal agencies scrambling to contain it, and the man (who calls himself Archimedes) spreading it. O.K., in all truth, the fiction of this novel is really a slightly predictable mystery thriller. But that, of course, isn't the draw of the novel. Preston has researched his material extensively, and the result is a highly-enjoyable, fascinating story. Preston complements his storyline with three sections entitled "Invisible History", which take a detour from the plot to explain the real life facts of the events taking place. These sections are well-written and informative. Also, to Preston's credit, he has resolved his problems in placing the climax in this novel. In The Hot Zone Preston climaxed in spectacular format and then let the book slide for entirely too long. In this novel, he climaxes and then ties up loose ends quickly and efficiently. One of Preston's best works, this receives a 9 out of 10 on the Dominion scale. If you liked The Hot Zone you'll love this book!
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good research; awful writing, October 19, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Cobra Event (Hardcover)
As all the magazine reviews have said, there's a lot of valuable research and privileged information in this book. But what may not be clear, except in the quotation from (of all places) "Entertainment Weekly", is that the writing is quite bad -- as if a very bright scholar or journalist had taken a night-school course in writing an "airport thriller", then talked a friend into publishing it without bringing in a co-writer or a good editor. (An editor is credited, if that's the right word here; I would have withdrawn my name if I were her.)
The plot is a little about forensics and epidemiology, new and interesting to most readers, and a whole lot about silly chases through tunnels and shafts, more like the script for a video game than a silly TV movie. What's missing, despite a few tries, is any insight into the only interesting character -- who is, as usual, the Bad Guy, not the Lovely Doctor or the Brave Agent. Worse, by making him a lone madman with a fixed address, rather than a resourceful and rational group, the entire plot becomes "Catch the Serial Murderer", his weapon almost irrelevant, rather than "Defeat Bio-Terrorism", without which there's no reason to publish or read this particular piece of fiction. The bookstores are already full of cops-versus-psycho novels.
At the sentence level, Preston's style is full of incorrect syntax, idiom, and semantics; mangled metaphors; pointless brand-names and jargon; jarring shifts between action and exposition -- sometimes within a single paragraph. It's like a poor imitation of the clumsily didactic novels of James Michener or Leon Uris.
Perhaps there's something infectious about bio-terrorism as the theme of a bad novel. Tom Clancy's "Rainbow Six" has a very similar theme; the Big Bad Guy and his gang have the same technology and the same motivation (pruning, not profit or political change) -- and it's Clancy's most pointless and poorly-written novel.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing..., July 15, 2002
By 
P. GUPTA (Anchorage, KY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
After reading the book, I seriously reconsidered how safe it is to shake hands with unknown people, or be in a crowded place in a big city or even be in a big city. As recent events have shown, there are mad people all around who want to fight against the establishment, never-mind how many lives it costs - the more the better.
This book contains a very graphic explanation of the after-effects of the Cobra virus. Though fiction, this book is known to have inspired some of America's bioweapon use/response policy, especially vis-a-vis Iraq. Along with Miller's "Germs: Biological Weapons...", this is a great read to understand the impact that bio-terrorism could have in an already scared world.
The poor climax of this work of fiction is the reason for my not giving it full points.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Medical Thriller, October 18, 2000
By 
Michael Dyckman (West Orange, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Cobra Event (Mass Market Paperback)
Richard Preston, who wrote the terrifying nonfiction bestseller The Hot Zone, has written another medical thriller, although this one is only fictional. A biological agent is found in the body of an Upper East Side high school student, and Alice Austen, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is brought in to help. Working with the FBI, they find that this agent is slowly making its way through New York City, and must find a way to stop it before it inflicts more gruesome deaths and causes a global catastrophe.
Gruesome is a key word, since Preston describes the deaths of the agent's victims with incredible, gory detail. This does not take anything away from the story, but in fact adds to it. The characters and story are well written, (although there is a trace of a romance storyline that doesn't fit), and the suspense moves quickly towards a terrific climax. Preston has obviously researched this subject very well, and writes a satisfying thriller.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A non-viable chimera of a book, November 23, 2001
By 
Ludwig A. Lettau, M.D. (Charleston, SC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Cobra Event (Mass Market Paperback)
As an ex-EIS officer at CDC and a current specialist in infectious diseases, I read this book mainly out of curiosity. Preston's attempt at blending the non-fictional history of biowarfare with the fictional mad molecular virologist at large in NYC, didn't work for me. The long winded biowarfare essays and his heavy handed techno-explanations were too disruptive and just weren't meshed well with the story he was attempting to tell. The ending is a mixture of "Frankenstein" and "Silence of the Lambs". I had hoped for something more original. Other notes while reading this book: 1. The NYC health department did not exist. 2. Why did they bother to include smallpox in the chimera virus? (It didn't seem to play any significant role.) 3. Preston seems to have a morbid fascination that "hot" biological agents cause liquifaction of human organs. It's OK if his fictional brainpox virus turns a brain into mush, but that sort of thing just doesn't happen in real life. 4. Why did the female protagonist insist on an outbreak case definition by autopsy? (I guess because she was a pathologist.) One or two maybe to get samples but after that a case could have been defined by: unexplained acute brain dysfunction with golden eyes and missing mouth parts or fingers. Preston's non-fiction success obviously got this book published. Novelists generally improve with practice. Time will tell.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good Tale, June 6, 2004
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This review is from: Cobra Event (Hardcover)
Preston's non-fiction works, "Hot Zone" and "Demon in the Freezer", are better. He brings an enthusiasm and readability to the subject of viruses and biowarfare that are, well, infectious. But he's just not a great writer of novels. His main characters --beautiful, smart, diffident, heroic, patriotic, and primed for action-- are little more than cardboard cutouts. The secondary characters are just names. Even the perpetrator in this book, the bad guy releasing the virus, is just a name and a description. Preston would have done well to start with the characters and then develop the plot from them, rather than vice versa. The science stuff is interesting, virology and autopsies and bio-reactors. It's a good tale, but not great fiction.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good -- not as entertaining as The Hot Zone, July 30, 2002
By 
Michael (Atlanta, GA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cobra Event (Mass Market Paperback)
Real simple review here -- I read this about the time that 9/11 happened. The book was good, but I enjoyed The Hot Zone much better. Don't know why, but it didn't have as much of a "Hollywood" pre-fab feel as this book did. Regardless, you'll enjoy the book and get a few goosebumps to boot. Buy it.
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The Cobra Event
The Cobra Event by Blair Underwood (Mass Market Paperback - August 29, 1998)
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