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Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World--Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It Hardcover – April 20, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 193 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In this fast-paced memoir, Ken Alibek combines cutting-edge science with the narrative techniques of a thriller to describe some of the most awful weapons imaginable. The result will remind readers of The Hot Zone, Richard Preston's smart bestseller about the Ebola virus. That book focuses on the dangers of a freak accident; Biohazard shows how disease can become a deliberate tool of war. Alibek, once a top scientist in the Soviet Union's biological weapons program, describes putting anthrax on a warhead and targeting a city on the other side of the world. "A hundred kilograms of anthrax spores would, in optimal atmospheric conditions, kill up to three million people in any of the densely populated metropolitan areas of the United States," he writes. "A single SS-18 [missile] could wipe out the population of a city as large as New York."

Chilling passages like these, plus discussions of proliferation and terrorism, make Biohazard a harrowing book, but it also has a human side. Alibek, who defected to the United States, describes the routine danger of his work: "A bioweapons lab leaves its mark on a person forever." An unending stream of vaccinations has destroyed his sense of smell, afflicted him with allergies, made it impossible to eat certain kinds of food, and "weakened my resistance to disease and probably shortened my life." But it didn't take away his ability to tell an astonishing story. --John J. Miller

From Library Journal

Biological weapons in the former Soviet Union; where are they now?
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (April 20, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375502319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375502316
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on October 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had read this book a few years back when it first came out. Now that the issue of bioterrorism and biowarfare is a front page issue, I decided to give it another read. Though not as compelling as some books on the dangers of unchecked plagues devastating the world (Richard Preston's The Hot Zone is still one of the scariest books I've ever read--fact or fiction), it focuses specifically on the use of biological agents as weapons. In this respect, it is an eye-opener.
Alibek was one of the key leaders and scientists in the Soviet Union's biological weapons. Until he defected in 1992, little was know in this country about the extent of the Soviet program--a program that was supposed to be dismantled by treaty agreement in the early 1970's. Alibek made us aware of how advanced the Soviet program was. And he warns us that Russia still works on advancing their program despite claims to the contrary.
Certainly this is a frightening prospect, especially in light of recent events in this country. Though I do not personally consider Russia a threat, it is painfully clear that Russian technology is leaving Russia and falling into the hands of people who are not afraid to use it. One of the things I like most about Alibek's book is that he gives tremendous insight into the Russian mentality. How even he, as a high-level soldier in the Soviet military, was brainwashed into believing the United States had an extensive bioweapons program. (I am not naive enough to think our program is non-existent despite treaty agreements but it certainly does not compare to the Russian production machine.) Additionally, he points out that in the trying economic times of post-communist Russia, anything and everything is up for sale.
I am not easily made paranoid.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ken Alibek's *Biohazard* is shocking even to a seasoned observer of the strategic weapons scene. It exposes the terrible danger that US and other world leaders prefer we don't think about: the vulnerability of human populations to biological weapons, and their inability to do anything about it.
While Alibek is certainly telling the story from his perspective, the fact that Americans were ignorant of the extent of the KGB's bioweapons program is undeniable. After reading this book, I personally cannot see any defense against the inevitability of a large-scale bioattack, and our helplessness in the face of such an attack. Viruses respect no geographical boundaries.
In one especially horrifying sequence, the Biopreparat researchers are forced to witness a colleague's slow death from Marburg (a cousin of Ebola) as a result of accidental exposure. When the colleague finally dies, the researchers are ordered by the KGB to weaponize the virus in the man's bloodstream, since it is now considered more lethal after having been inside a human host.
The moral of the story: Never assume we really know what those governmental institutions are up to. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
If you read one book about biohazards/bioterrorism, make it this book! Dr Alibek does a superb job of presenting the terrifying facts concerning the extent of biological weapons of mass destruction that have been developed and are currently available to anyone looking for such a weapon. If you think stockpiling vaccines, vaccinating the military against specific agents, and/or there is no threat to the US from these weapons, you really need to digest the info provided here by an author "in the know". To make these facts even more frightening, think about this... I'm sure there are some things Dr Alibek could not include in this account as they are considered classified information. As Dr Alibek clearly shows, the R&D didn't stop just because the USSR collapsed. What horrors have been engineered and perfected since his defection in 1992?
When one thinks about it, the world was probably safer before the Soviet collapse. At least there were massive safeguards in place to provide ultimate secrecy to this program and to keep the organisms in check in case of accidents. Now, there measures have dissolved with the Soviet state..... who is controlling/maintaining these bioweapons? Dr Alibek makes you think about these very hard questions.
It is also very interesting to realize that both Yeltsin and Gorbachev were deeply involve in propogating these weapons under the guise of countermeasures/vacine development. All this was done with total disregard to the 1972 Bioweapon Treaty signed by the USSR. This certainly gives a new meaning to Peristroika!
It is not easy to like or even accept the choices the author made in his life. He is quite frank in how he came to his decisions and the realizes the abhorrent results of his decisions.
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Format: Paperback
As this review is written, in October 2002, it is well to remember that Ken Alibeck first brought his revelations of the massive Soviet (and now, Russian Federation) bioweapon production to the public in his book BIOHAZARD more than two years ago. His defection to the U.S. occurred almost four years earlier.
And yet, as I travel the country to promote my own book --a fiction bioterrorist assault on the U.S. that threatens humanity itself-- I'm dumbfounded to discover that the majority of my audiences have no idea of who Ken is.
Worse, they have no conception of the horrors that he, as deputy director of Biopreparat/Vector, the massive organization the Soviet Union created to develop and mass-produce lethal viruses and other bioagents BY THE METRIC TON, has visited on today's world.
Today we live with the very real threat of a worldwide pandemic of smallpox --a disease officially eradicated in nature three decades ago-- that could be sparked by any number of rogue nations or their terrorist clients who possess the weaponized form of smallpox that Biopreparat/Vector produced.
And because that hideous form of variola virus is likely to have been genetically modified, it is entirely possible that existing smallpox vaccines (such as that being recommended for mass immunization in the U.S., Israel, Australia and elsewhere) simply will not work against it.
While I was researching my novel of bioterrorism, Final Epidemic, I met many experts in the field of national security, medicine and government. In private conversations, those who consented to be interviewed all agreed on one point: a staggering volume of bioweapons exist today, and could be released upon mankind at any time by a ruthless ideologue... or a madman.
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