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Demon in the Freezer Paperback – September, 2002
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From the Back Cover
Advance praise for The Demon in the Freezer
“Richard Preston has brought us another book that reads like a top-notch thriller. Would that it were fiction. As the movie unfolds in your mind, remember this: It can happen here.”
-Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague
“The Demon in the Freezer is fascinating, frightening, and important. It reads like a thriller, but the demons are real. Richard Preston has a ‘black patent’ on this kind of reporting and storytelling. He is the only writer on the scene who can make the inside story of biological weapons so darkly entertaining.
Read this book and pray that its heroes can lock the demon back in the freezer.”
-Jonathan Weiner, author of The Beak of the Finch
Praise for The Hot Zone
“One of the most horrifying things I’ve ever read in my whole life. What a remarkable piece of work. I devoured it in two or three sittings, and have a feeling the memories will linger a long time.”
“A tour de force . . . Preston uses the power of simple narrative to drive deep his story’s urgent truths.”
-Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Utterly engrossing . . . Will make your blood curdle.”
-The Washington Post Book World
From the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
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Thank you for the book, Mr. Preston!
While the information it contains was as fascinating as I had hoped and expected, the book could have benefited from more skillful editing. The writing was so disjointed that it not only detracts from the story, it was distracting in general. At times, the writing was so disjointed that it even became annoying to read.
So sadly, while I've read The Hot Zone numerous times and added it to my home library in a print edition, I won't be reading The Demon In The Freezer again, and I doubt you'll read it more than once either. For that reason if you still want to read it (and admittedly, there are far worse books out there) I suggest you save the trees, and get the Kindle edition.
And Richard Preston is surely right up there as well. This is my second read from him, the first being, "The Hot Zone," and I was mesmerized while reading that, just like I was mesmerized while reading "The Demon in the Freezer." With both of these gentlemen though, I will say that, if you read any of their works, you may have trouble sleeping at night. After all, Mr. Olsen liked to write about serial killers while Mr. Preston likes to write about viruses. And it's hard to say which one of these real-life scourges might kill you first.
Most authors use flowery language to get their points across, while neither of these gentlemen ever seem to add one unnecessary word. It's as if they write a chapter, backtrack, and then remove any words that are unneeded. It is the case that, when telling a story, words often do just get in the way; natural language is somewhat flawed, after all. But you wouldn't know it while reading the works from these two masters.
I do like how Mr. Preston describes a new character for the first time in a chapter. He must have a template, and he must follow that template religiously. You might read something like, "John Smith is a doctor at John Hopkins. He has gray hair, parted in the middle, with a slight frown on his face." Etc. I like it. Why reinvent the wheel, after all? But Mr. Preston's writings are far from just workmanlike; when he gets into the meat of a subject, you know that the potatoes are soon coming. However, you just hope that you'll be able to keep down a meal after reading an unsavory description of how some poor soul dies from, say, smallpox.
Keeping in the spirit of both writers, I'll keep this review short and sweet. But I will add the following: for fans of Richard Preston, I highly encourage you to try a book or two from Jack Olsen as well. You surely won't be disappointed, either way.
The author begins the book, and periodically returns to, the story of the 2001 anthrax attacks in the U.S. (called “Amerithrax”). Because the book is supposedly about smallpox, the long discussions on anthrax seem out-of-place. Granted, the Amerithrax story does illustrate how easily someone could use smallpox in an attack, but at the same time, the book seems almost like two different stories mashed together as opposed to one narrative. Since the book was published in 2002, the unfinished story of the Amerithrax attacks seems even more like an unneeded addition to the discussion about smallpox.
As for writing style, the author’s background in journalism shows through, creating a story that is readable, but not as in-depth as most historical or scientific books. The he gives personal details about the scientists involved in the smallpox and anthrax studies (like the cars they drive) and hints at who the perpetrator of the Amerithrax attacks might be without technically issuing blame – both of which seem completely unnecessary in the larger context of the story, especially since the scientist he seems to point to was not the person ultimately convicted of the crime.
I rated this as “4 stars” because I think it deserves more than "It was ok," especially since the information regarding smallpox and anthrax was informative. But the rest of the side stories, and the speculation regarding the Amerithrax case, lessen the overall value of the book.