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Showing 1-10 of 150 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 488 reviews
on April 12, 2017
I LOVED the Hot Zone. Brilliant work that was beautifully well-written. It was a nonfiction that read like a novel. Unfortunately, this is fiction that reads like nonfiction which is not so good. Flat characters, stilted diolague, and way to much detail. I now feel as if I could actually preform an autopsy, if I needed to. Pages and pages of detailed description on just about everything and then a jarring jump back to the storyline. It felt as if the book couldn't decide what to be. You keep having to switch back and fourth; is this a story now, or is this a dissertation on the many subjects that Mr Preston obviously has extensive knowledge. Fascinating and terrifying subject that, in this case, would have been better served as nonfiction.
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on July 30, 2013
I suggested this book for my club thinking it would be a great beach book. It was exactly that. Fast-paced, easy reading, but still thought provoking. Definitely not "mind-candy." I devoured it with the same enthusiasm as last summer's book, "Gone Girl." In fact, I saw many parallels between the two, not least the illustration of the frightening amount of damage that one individual can inflict upon the lives of others. Fortunately for the vast majority of humanity who are not sociopaths, circumstances very rarely converge as they do for the antagonists of both of these novels, bestowing them with brilliance and insatiable neediness and immorality and blind ambition and vast amounts of idle time.

The novel begins with the grisly death of a seventeen-year-old girl in Manhattan. Cause of death is determined to be due to a pathogen of unknown origin. Similar deaths follow, which sets us on the course of a "bio-investigation" (for lack of a better word) which in turn becomes a full-scale operation including the FBI, NYPD, CDC and NSA. There is much historical and scientific information given by way of backstory, sometimes a little awkwardly. While the book itself is fiction, the science and history upon which it is based are accurate, making it that much more alarming.

Preston is a Science Journalist by profession, not a novelist. This is evident in the style of the work. It can be awkward, as stated above, maybe even a little cheesy...not Dan Brown cringe-inducingly bad, just not crisp. In spite this, there are some passages that are brilliant, almost poetic. These are always in his descriptions of forces of nature, which clearly evoke passion in the writer.

Bottom line: a fun (well, as much fun as gruesome illness can be), exciting trip to the world of forensic pathology. Club meeting should include other guilty pleasures such as cheap Chianti, Velveeta dip and raw cookie dough (c'mon, we all love it.)
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on April 25, 2017
I loved the Hot Zone. Tight writing, non fiction, with a scary message. I've heard the author speak, at the NIH, and was impressed. Finally decided to read The Cobra Event - a quick read, easy to follow, with what felt like facts interspersed - frightening ones, if true. But the writing was so stilted - a cascade of short declarative sentences that really started annoying me early in the book and bothered me the whole way through. Disappointing.
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on April 25, 2016
Frighteningly real. Will haunt you for a long time afterward. In fact-checking many events, research is "spot on". Exploring the internet and clicking on wikipedia re the subject matter I saw images I wish I had never seen, as those images will be seared into your brain and you'll see why biological warfare is far worse than a nuclear option. Author's previous book "The Hot Zone" was a true story and I heard that it may be a mini-series sometime in the future on the FOX network (some 20 years after the book was published).
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on March 9, 2014
If you want to read about a horror that has potential to become true....This is it. If this book scared Clinton into having the Secret Service look into the chance of this happening, it'll scare the pants off of you.

Honestly, this is quite a frightening book, and very well written by Richard Preston.I am a huge fan of his other books as well! I highly recommend this book if you like mystery, action, and a virus that kills on contact.
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on April 2, 2016
Highly recommended author. The medical research is done very well and good description of what an outbreak could entail
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on January 6, 2017
I like the story The Cobra Event possibly because I'm familiar with epidemiology and microbiology. the book contains a lot of science and the story line is plausible. Would the main character have the opportunity to get involved with the police work, I seriously doubt it. I would strongly recommend reading the book for the science and the potential bioterrorism aspects. I have several of this author's books, so I highly recommend him.
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on January 2, 2012
Richard Preston further pads his resume in the medical / forensics / killer microorganism genre (yup, I am calling it a genre now) with "The Cobra Event". If you get aroused by detailed descriptions of Jello-like brains, detailed autopsies, and blood-filled oral ulcers, then you are in for the treat of your life!

In "The Hot Zone", he explored the danger of a naturally occurring virus (in that case, Ebola) and terrifying rapid and gruesome spread of this tiny biological organism. He introduced some thematic underpinnings regarding the abuse of natural resources and dangers of over-population. He expertly builds on these tropes in "The Cobra Event", but takes it to the next step where man is directly tinkering with viral genetic code to make the most dangerous weaponized "frankenstein" virus ever seen.

The mysterious "Archimedes" has identified with the viruses he modifies and is sickened by the world being destroyed by over-population. While he waxes whimsical over the power of viruses to "reset" populations before they grow to large, he identifies that public health measures are the #1 enemy. A 17-year old girl began her school day healthy with a bit of a runny nose, by the afternoon is gushing clear nasal discharge and disoriented and dies moments later in the school bathroom from a massive seizure and eating her own tongue. Newly minted CDC pathologist, Alice Austen, escapes her desk when a mentor suggests she check out this unusual case. Richard Preston then takes the foot of the brake and onto the gas pedal marked "more gore!" with subsequent detailed descriptions of autopsies, deaths as brains are ravaged by viruses and the colorful "auto-cannibalism". Preston also throws in an impressive dose of forensics / epidemiology / crime procedural into the mix to make it a true page turner. Once you hit the end, you will be quite terrified that everyone else around may be that deadly vector and that a biosuit with HEPA filters for the holidays doesn't sound quite so crazy.

Tom's Two Cents:

Word of the day: auto-cannibalism!

While I am always a sucker for body horror mashed with crime procedurals, Preston has an excellent style. While some may be a bit bothered by the quite gruesome, and clinically described, autopsies and deaths - it fits the theme of the book. The villain, Archimedes, is a bit one-dimensional and falls on the very-cliched reason for the craziness of "paranoid schizophrenia". This only bothers me since most patients with this level of schizophrenia tend to be very low functioning and would likely not be expert bio-engineers.

But I digress, where else can you get descriptions of a mutated moth virus that forms armor-like crystals as it melts your midbrain and causes you to rip off your own scalp and eat it? No where else that I have found.
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on June 23, 2012
Is this book perfect? No. As fiction it has its faults most especially that overdrawn final adventure in the unused tunnel areas of the New York subway system. However the balance of the book is tense, exciting and highly instructive. The author has received extensive input from government experts on infectious diseases. This includes experts from all the relative agencies including the FBI, CDC, USAMRIID, US Navy Biological Defense Resarch Program, the Office of the chief Medical Examiner of NYC,and the medical center at Princeton, NJ, the NY subway historian, and on and on. He names his sources and they are very impressive. While this is a book of fiction a large part of it represents authentic events and highly accurate relevant biology. As fiction this book is clearly one of the best I've ever read. As they say a page turner hard to put aside or forget. In short despite some flaws it is still an A+ in my opinion. On balance this book will not merely entertain you but will also educate you. The author had previously established his credibility in non fiction works, books and long articles in the New Yorker magazine. A word (okay more than a word) about my credentials... I'm a retired PHD in Physics who did a lot of applied research in my career (including some teaching) and know a bit about how scientists work and how seriously the better of them takes their work and enjoys doing it. The scientists and technicians in the Cobra Event ring true.
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on August 8, 2009
I have recently read and reviewed "The Hot Zone" and "Demon in the Freezer". My respect and praise for the author is very high for these nonfiction books. Somehow I managed NOT to read "Hot Zone" until just now....even though it was published in '94. Also, I managed not to read "The Demon in the Freezer" even though it was published in '02. I read first the older then the more recent books. This had been preceeded by a book about the 1918 influenze ( The Great Influenza ) which is probably how and why the Amazon suggestion engine led me to Preston.

Good job Amazon.

Anyway. If you have NOT read either of these nonfiction books I'd say "Cobra" very well might be a "5" for you. If you've read "Hot" but not "Demon" I'd predict you'd find it a "3". And finally, if you've read both "Hot Zone" AND "Demon in the Freezer" like me prior to reading "Cobra" then you might, like me, rate "Cobra" at "2". Sequence is everything.

Sometimes I felt as if entire passages and keywords had been lifted verbatim into Cobra from the other two books. Well, that's fair play for sure given the nature of the fictional novel. But, it rendered the book predictable and at times even boring for me. Nonfiction of the sort mentioned here is , I think, the author's forte-he has genre leading power.

Nonfiction does not seem to me to be his strongest suit. Now, it's good and better if you are reading it "cold" instead of "hot" ( pardon that ). Clearly, though, to me, the novel follows a formula for the genre in character development, goings on ( as my grandmother used to say ) and the need for ACTION and some GUNS.

Uh, on that note it's clear the author doesn't visit "the range" often. He describes a "00" shotgun when he meant to say 12 ga loaded with double ought buck ( shot optional ). Also, little things like the 10mm MP5 ( which I believe is 9 mm ) give away the fact that he knows not of what he speaks. That makes little difference but is interesting. The author is not going to dethrone Tom Clancey any time soon.

"Cobra Event" was published in '97 and presumably the product of research and writing done in the mid 90s. As such the book has a historical value that may be of interest to future generations ( depending upon who is writing the books at such a future time and/or there even IS a future for the human race thinking of the possibility that some nut job might let loose a bioengineered smallpox or ebola that would literally cause the extinction of the human race).

This historical interest lies in the discussion of Iraq, bioweapons, bioweapons inspection efforts by the U.N. in Iraq etc etc etc etc. all of this going on in the post Desert Storm era but prior to 911 and the subsequent invasion of Iraq.

I agree with other reviewers that it's tough at times to differentiate between fact, probably fact, extrapolation from fact, and hard fact in the book. I believe there was a Chrichton book that actually footnoted the "facts" but I cannot recall the title. That would have been a good idea here. If Iraq really made 9000 gallons of "bot tox" and none of it was really EVER found....that's of note. It makes me uneasy if, in fact, nothing was found of a substantive bioweapons nature in Iraq.

It's a good book. It didn't scare me all that much....after reading "Hot Zone" and "Demon in the Freezer" I was plenty scared and very pessimistic. I remain pessimistic. I hope the present ( and prior ) administrations are putting VERY serious money and personnel into efforts to counter biothreats. However, frankly, after reading these books, and others,I am deeply pessimistic and think that we may be defenseless no matter what kind of measures we may think we have in place to counter this threat.

When you think about our present society, the mass retailing operations, mass sports and music venues, tremendous mobility etc and interdependency of all sectors of the economy on transportation etc etc.....I got plenty scared reading about the 1918 flu given that our social structure and economy was so much less of a "mixing bowl" then than now.....thinking about something like natural smallpox much less bioengineered weaponized smallpow, makes me terrified.

And, we learn from Preston in his nonfiction books about the HUGE Russian stockpiles of bioweapons and sophisticated missile delivery systems....and then learn this week of the two Russian subs armed with , among other things, cruise missiles just off our east coast....

Now, it's a close call for me which I'd rather the Russians special deliver to our cities....hundreds of kilotons or smallpox......and frankly, I guess I'd rather take the atom bomb than the pox. LOL, the phrase from the middle ages...."the pox be on you".....kinda means more after reading this material.

This IS a good book. I DO recommend it. Just keep in mind it loses some "punch" , that is gets attenuated if preceeded by Preston's nonfiction thrillers. I suspect that "Cobra" was designed to reach a different market segment that would be much less likely to read the nonfiction of "Hot" and "Demon"...in other words, not that many people may have read all three. I sure hope our government is "on" this.
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