Saturday, March 18, 2017

Non-fiction Annotation

The Hot Zone: 

The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus

by Richard Preston

Anchor Books (1999)
ISBN: 978-0385495226
Available formats:  Hardcover, Paperback


Charles Monet returned to his job at the pump house at the sugar factory. He walked to work each day across the burned cane fields, no doubt admiring the view of Mount Elgon, and when the mountain was buried in clouds, perhaps he could still feel its pull, like the gravity of an invisible planet. 

Meanwhile, something was making copies of itself inside Monet. 

A life form had acquired Charles Monet as a host, and it was replicating.

...Charles Monet is sitting on a bench in casualty, and he does not look very much different from someone else in the room, except for his bruised, expressionless face and his red eyes. A sign on the wall warns patients to watch out for purse thieves, and another sign says: PLEASE MAINTAIN SILENCE YOUR COOPERATION WILL BE APPRECIATED. NOTE: THIS IS A CASUALTY DEPARTMENT. EMERGENCY CASES WILL BE TAKEN IN PRIORITY. YOU MAY BE REQUIRED TO WAIT FOR SUCH CASES BEFORE RECEIVING ATTENTION 

Monet maintains silence, waiting to receive attention. Suddenly he goes into the last phase. The human virus bomb explodes. Military biohazard specialists have ways of describing this occurrence. They say that the victim has "crashed and bled out". Or more politely they say that the victim has "gone down".

Pools of blood spread out around him, enlarging rapidly. Having destroyed its host, the agent is now coming out of every orifice, and is "trying" to find a new host.  (excerpts from the book, emphasis mine)

The Hot Zone is an alarming and incredible account of the emergence of the highly lethal virus, Ebola, in the world.  Scientists have to track down this invisible invader, figure out where it came from, and determine how it travels and how to fight it.  Ebola has up to a 90% fatality rate within days of infection, and no cure, so the fight is especially urgent.  It arrives in the U.S. through monkeys shipped here for research and breaks out, prompting the secret mobilization of the military and top level scientists in a desperate attempt to isolate and destroy it before it can spread and kill.  The team will have to wade into the blood and face this terrifying life-form directly in order to keep the rest of us safe.  Would you be willing to handle it with only a pair of rubber gloves for protection?  “Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.” (book jacket)

"In the opinion of General Russell, this was a job for soldiers operating under a chain of command.  There would be a need for people trained in biohazard work.  They would have to be young, without families, willing to risk their lives.  They would have to know each other and be able to work in teams.  They had to be ready to die."  (excerpted from the book)

Appeal Characteristics in this Book

Story:  Novelist calls this an issue-oriented story.  This is a well-researched and documented exploration of the origins of the ebola virus and its social and political implications for humankind.  It's also a warning to pay attention to ethical issues in medical research.

Pacing:  The pace of this story is somewhat of a roller coaster.  Parts of it are edge-of-your-seat thriller, and other parts are leisurely background description of the main players, and in-between we're caught up in a moderate to fast-paced tale that's part science and part detective story. 

Setting:  The Hot Zone ranges around the contemporary world from the caves, jungles, and cities of Africa to the highly modern and technological setting of urban research and military centers in the United States and Europe.  

Tone:  This is a thought-provoking and suspenseful story.  The story is mostly optimistic, but is also a warning and the tone is serious and, as Novelist says, sobering. 

Style:  The structure of the book is complex, jumping around in time and place, and highly detailed with a lot of technical terms.  The unfamiliar terms are explained well and give the reader a true sense of the world of the scientists.  The government and military are inordinately fond of acronyms and these are scattered liberally throughout the book.  

Characterization:  The central “character” in the book is the ebola virus itself, which is treated as an intelligent monster purposely hunting and attacking human hosts.  The other "characters" are the real scientists, doctors, healthcare professionals, military specialists, politicians, and victims surrounding the virus.  

Appeal terms:  true story, compelling, intense, suspenseful, fast-paced, medical thriller

Personal Note

This is the scariest, most mesmerizing, intense book I have ever read, hands down!  It seems like science fiction, blended with horror, but it's ALL TRUE making it absolutely freaky.  I'm so glad I don't live anywhere near any research facilities.  One of the most awful parts of book is when one of the researchers, Tom Geisbert, is doing what he thinks is routine work when he discovers that what he's been handling is Ebola - with no protection, he and his boss even smelled it!  He's on edge for a week, wondering if he's going to die, and has no idea what to do.  Oy! Just thinking about it again makes my blood run cold.

This is one of the best books I have EVER read.  There simply aren't words to explain....  This is a MUST READ!!  It even scared Stephen King, who called it, "One of the most horrifying things I've ever read...remarkable."

Wow.  Just, wow.  I have to read it again.  Now.  So do you.



No one around the Institute wanted to get involved with his Ebola project. Ebola, the slate wiper, did things to people that you did not want to think about. The organism was too frightening to handle, even for those who were comfortable and adept in space suits. They did not care to do research on Ebola because they did not want Ebola to do research on them.  

Ebola Zaire is the most feared agent at the Institute. The general feeling around USAMRIID has always been "Those people who work with Ebola are crazy." To mess around with Ebola is an easy way to die. Better to work with something safer, such as anthrax.

Movie rights have been purchased and an attempt was made which was not particularly successful.  It came across as a cheesy sci fi film, unfortunately.  Talk is going around the Web that another movie or TV series will be made which will hold more true to the book, but so far there are no definite plans.  

The outbreak of 2014-2015 affected countries around the world, including the U.S. with 4 cases diagnosed here.  It took a concerted effort from all major health agencies and military branches to isolate, contain, and finally defeat this outbreak.  Updates from this and any new outbreaks can be found at the Centers for Disease Control here

Did you know?: December 24, 2014 - The CDC announces that a technician will be monitored for three weeks after possibly being exposed to the Ebola virus at one of the agency's Atlanta labs. The agency reports a small amount of material which may have contained the live virus had been mistakenly transferred from one lab to another.  (  Major oops!

Book Trailers

Very well done trailer.

Hilarious student trailer.
I love the plush monkey autopsy!
Note the styrofoam cup face mask...
Great sound effect, lol...



Most of these are written by the same author, Richard Preston.  Micro was mostly written by Michael Crichton, but was finished by Preston.  Both Micro and The Cobra Event are fiction, while The Demon in the Freezer and Panic in Level 4 are non-fiction.  Jurassic Park is Michael Crichton's most well-known and popular work, Spillover is a highly acclaimed science non-fiction. 
All are considered "bio-thrillers".  



  1. Holy language, Batman! I have never seen a nonfiction book with a better description. The synopsis and quotes totally made it feel like a horror story. The author has got to have some serious creative talent to personify Ebola so threateningly. I don't usually go for nonfiction, but this might change my mind.

  2. Beware, you won't put it down! Except to run out and buy rubber gloves and face masks, lol. I really want to go on a field trip to the CDC and the hot lab now, just to look at the monster... Morbid, yes, but oh, so, thrilling.

  3. Dang! You had me hooked with this annotation! I like the included quotes and statement from Stephen King, this sounds terrifyingly amazing! I've heard of this but never looked into it. After your intense annotation (love the book trailers btw) I'm definitely going to have to read it. Full points and great job!!!!