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The Demon In The Freezer (2015)

The Demon in the Freezer (2015)
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4.09 of 5 Votes: 1
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075531218X (ISBN13: 9780755312184)
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English
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The Demon In The Freezer (2015)
The Demon In The Freezer (2015)

About book: Richard Preston is known for his exceptionally well-researched works that outline true-life possibilities regarding fact-based scientific work. His work regarding the possibilities of threats to American and world life at the hands of biological terrorists is both mesmerizing from a scientific standpoint and also from a layman’s standpoint—the position of pure curiosity. His work, The Demon in the Freezer allows the reader to imagine a world that could, at any single moment in time, be reconnected with a lost danger and thrown into pure chaos from something as simple as a powder in a jar. The biological weapon that Preston introduced the book with is one that plenty of Americans are familiar with—it being the subject of history talks, articles in the mainstream media, and threats on a daily basis. This weapon is anthrax.For those who may not be aware, anthrax is not a poison as it is typically portrayed in media. It is in actuality a disease spread by the bacterium Bacillus Anthracis which can form dormant endospores—a substance that can be found on every single continent in the world—including Antarctica. This disease, when inhaled can cause acute respiratory complications that can result in a fatal collapse of the respiratory system making it a significantly effective weapon if the spores were attached to materials that could spread easily. Preston describes, though not fully in detail as to prevent this knowledge from spreading, the odd ways that certain materials will behave and the dangers of their being connected to anthrax spores. He outlines certain attempts at anthrax attacks—both successful and unsuccessful—and then goes on to describe another bioweapon. A different one that is also a disease but this time is not a bacterium—a virus with no cure that humans are totally and completely unprepared to deal with.Smallpox. But Mr. Preston, many will say, there is no more smallpox. Half the world probably has never even heard of such a thing anymore. It’s been gone for long enough that children grow up without knowing anything about it. There are no more wide-spread vaccinations for smallpox. Why should there be? Afterall, smallpox is one of only two viruses that have ever been eradicated from the face of the Earth.Wrong. Smallpox may have been eradicated from the human population, Preston argues, but it has never been lost to the Earth. As the title of the book suggests, smallpox is considered a demon lurking deep within the walls of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in a freezer with samples from some of the last known cases of smallpox to ever be inflicted on human kind. So what’s the worry there, ask the readers. The worry is that when smallpox was eradicated in 1979 there was another super power interested in containing the deadly disease—for possible use in future bioweaponry. Set against the backdrop of the cold war, the fight to fully eradicate the samples of smallpox was met with resistance and even now the United States still withholds its samples. The samples from the Soviet Union, however, have since disappeared. Preston’s down-to-earth presentation of interview statements and documented facts have the reader sitting on the edge of their seat, wondering if a biological war is as Preston suggests—just two steps away. Where did the Soviet samples of smallpox go after the fall of the Union? Does Russia still have them? And were they developing virulent samples that could theoretically wipe out millions in a single attack? If they were not destroyed—who has them? Where are they? And is there a chance that they will fall into the wrong hands?Preston turns these questions into a late-night page-turner built to mount the tension in the hearts of every red-blooded American and to spark the questions that will lead to the future. Is a smallpox re-emergence inevitable? Is it truly as easy as Preston suggests? It is left for the reader to ponder the facts as Preston has laid them out. Bioweapons are a reality in this day and age. From anthrax to smallpox, humans will forever be susceptible to some form of bacteria or virus that is virulent enough to kill and controllable enough to form into a loose cannon.I enjoyed the book however I found that in some points Preston could lose a reader who was not versed in basic virus and bacterium studies. While he does try to make the prose accessible to most readers, he could not reach all and many would find the book boring due to this lack of understanding. Also many readers might wish to read this book just for the talk of smallpox—as it is something of a novelty—and be disappointed by the long-winded sections that might not interest a reader who was looking for the thrills that can be found later in the stories. Also Preston has a tendency to be a bit jumpy and moves without very much smoothness into smallpox from anthrax and then back again. His transitions could have used a bit of work and might confuse readers or dishearten them if they were “on track” with one subject and then are suddenly derailed.Nevertheless, the situations and theories that Preston introduces are valid, if not perhaps a bit improbable, and it brings up the unavoidable thoughts and questions that should rise to the surface of anyone’s mind. Could it ever be possible for total eradication to occur? Could the humans that hold it ever give up that power far greater than that of a nuclear weapon? Could the world ever be fully rid of all smallpox—the demon in the freezer? What will happen if it ever gets out of that freezer? And even more important than that:Should we be worried?

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. I expect the end of the world, the people part of it in any case, is likeliest to be the result of loose pathogens. In Demon in the Freezer, published in 2002, Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone and The Cobra Event takes a look at two of the top candidates for the job, smallpox and anthrax. In October 2001, a photo-retoucher for the National Enquirer died as a result of a deliberate attack with anthrax. While the CDC was looking in to this, Senator Tom Dashle, among other mostly liberal figures, received mail tainted with the deadly material, and the investigation heated up. Was the USA under attack by Al-Qaeda again so soon after 9/11?Preston follows several of the people involved in the research, documenting such comforting events at the CDC as faulty gloves and a researcher puncturing her super safe blue space suit. More importantly he looks at the eradication of smallpox in nature and the subsequent attempt to eliminate, or at least sharply limit the availibillty of remaining samples of the disease. They were to have been divided between CDC facilities in Georgia and a comparable site in the Soviet Union. A treaty was signed by most of the world, Richard Nixon signing for the USA, banning the use of bio-weapons. Most of the signatories kept their word. Sadly, the Soviets not only held onto their stores, but shifted them around like a pea in a hucksterish street game when inspectors came a'calling. Thankfully a high level Soviet scientist defected and spilled the beans. Not that that prevented the Soviets from continuing their activities, but at least the rest of the world was put on to their game.The author looks at the details of both anthrax and smallpox through the eyes of the researchers as they attempt to determine the provenance of, in particular, the Daschle-targeted anthrax. He offers enough biological detail without wandering too far into techno-speak-land. He learns from those who know how deadly pathogens might be delivered to maximize death. Preston passes on government suspicions that Steven Hatfill, one of the virologists he interviewed for the book, might be the source of the Daschle anthrax. Another scientist, Bruce Edwards Ivins, believed to be angry over pro-choice stands taken by alleged targets, was later found to have been the guilty party by the FBI, but the case was regarded as inconclusive and no criminal charges were filed before Ivins killed himself. The mystery remains.Preston is a compelling story teller and his is a tale of potential horror. He makes it crystal clear that deadly diseases, kept in freezers around the world, can, at any time, be thawed out and weaponized. We do not know where all these stores are located, and we do not have a means for protecting people against superpox, specifically designed to get past immune systems and antibiotics. The only real surprise is that the big kill-off has not yet occurred. This is a short book with a very long shadow. You really need to read this.
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Reviews
Tina
If you thought Preston's The Hot Zone and the movie Outbreak were scary, hold onto your hats. In this nonfiction narrative, which Preston published in 2002 on the heels of 9/11, he tells of a more tangible threat to the world than any other communicable disease; one which, up until quite recently, was the greatest scourge ever to afflict to mankind, and yet you've probably never known anyone or seen anyone who has ever experienced it -- smallpox. It is a killer perfectly tailored by nature to the human race. Preston details the efforts of the World Health Organization's Eradication Program to rid the world of smallpox by 1979 against all odds, as well as the investigation of the anthrax mailings in October 2001 with subsequent efforts by USAMRIID and the CDC to keep news of possible weaponization and genetic engineering of anthrax and smallpox under wraps. This book is enough to cause paranoia in even the most stoic of skeptics. An eye-opening, superbly researched, and fascinating read.
Xiande Deng
The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston is a relatively short science non-fiction book. It is really interesting to read if you are interested in science, biology, virology, or any other bioweapon related subjects. The best thing Preston does is to get the reader hooked up to the story, the vivid images and foreshadowing made it absolutely impossible to put the book down once you flip a single page! For example, at the very beginning of the book, a photographer dies from a virus that’s supposed to be long gone, any reader would want to find out more on how he died and the causes of his death, but Preston doesn’t give a lot of explanations until a few pages afterwards, making the reader go on. This kind of style is there throughout the entire novel. However, the amount of gold coins that get the reader going slightly decreases in the middle, making those parts a little boring, but there is always something new, something interesting to motivate the reader to go on just before you want to throw the book down on the table. Even though almost every chapter begins with a new person who is unaware of the jobs of other people and has a new perspective, they are somehow related to each other, could be the same type of jobs, affected and forced to change because of the same reason, or hurt from the same viruses. It’s similar to a puzzle, with every chapter there is a new clue given to the reader, after a few chapters or at the end, the clues can be used to help the reader understand what’s going on in the story. The life story of each person is described in the beginning giving the reader an idea of their jobs or even the reason of why they make a certain decision. It really helps to figure out the thought process of each person. There are a lot of big words that perhaps only doctors or virologists know, but they are followed by very specific explanations to the word. It is great way for someone who wants to be a virologist to understand and learn the vocabulary. There is also a huge amount of images which vividly describes an autopsy of a human corpse, it tells in exact details about the different parts of organs after a virus attack, it can have a positive or negative effect on the reader: it’s really interesting for someone who loves examining corpses; really disgusting for people who doesn’t like it. Lastly, a warning to everyone who wants to read this book: do not open the book if you are not interested in becoming a virologist, things can get very disturbing and turn your stomach upside down.
Cindy
Excellent scientific thriller - Preston writes with such passion that it feels like fiction and is all the more horrifying because it all occurred. He looks at the anthrax attacks that followed 9/11 and describes the transmission of the bacteria. Then he takes us on a journey through the great Eradication of smallpox - A singularly significant medical achievement. Smallpox is a vile disease that makes AIDS and Ebola seem tame in comparison. However, there was an undercurrent that Preston brings to light - a controversy in the scientific and research communities regarding what to do with smallpox - should the virus be kept for research purposes or utterly destroyed? There is a case for keeping it considering that there are almost certainly more than the 2 known repositories (in Russia and at CDC). The knowledge is out there and terrorists could certainly use it to inflict massive casualties. The other argument, that it should be destroyed, has lots of merit as well. In the end there is no satisfying conclusion, but that's real life for you. His conclusion is powerful: "We could eradicate smallpox from nature, but we could not uproot the virus from the human heart."
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