The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this book because I will be teaching it this fall as the new non-fiction text in the English 9 curriculum, and since I'm such a good teacher, I better know what it was about. For this review, I will be analyzing "The Hot Zone" for its educational merits.
Preston investigates an outbreak of a dangerous viral strain- Ebola (Marburg, Ebola Zaire, Ebola Mayinga and Ebola Reston are all varieties that pose threats in this book), and its devastating effects on the human population from Kitum Cave in the heart of the African continent to a laboratory right outside Washington D.C and involves everyone from the amateur researchers to U.S. Army personnel who think they are familiar with disease....until this epidemic.
I specifically liked the narration of the text and how it is presented in smaller chapters that host individual stories that will eventually come together. We start the book off with Charles Monet who explores Kitum Cave, and Preston immediately twists the story and shows us how Monet is infected with a mysterious disease and dies in a short turn around rate. Preston also shows us the stories of doctors, nurses and other patients who interact with infected people and makes sure the reader understands the fear that comes with this unknown viral threat.
Folks- watch out for the vivid imagery! My male teenage students will love when Preston describes "organs turning into mush" and "blood dripping from every orifice", but if you're queasy, you may want to avoid it. I personally enjoyed the detail, but I also had to stop frequently and go wash my hands because I felt metaphorically contaminated.
NOTE- PETA representatives may object to this book as well, because the main reason the virus spreads is through human-primate interaction.... So how do you think the Army removes a threat of lethal virus when it's found in a laboratory of research monkeys? If you're clueless, whelp, read the book to find out.
I think that this will be a beneficial text to use in a classroom, especially in conjunction with science classes covering viruses and primates. I plan on having students investigating different diseases, writing persuasive essays about disease prevention and animal rights, as well as even doing a quarantine demonstration where the kids can do anything by sit in a chair for a certain amount of time....OH WAIT-they already do that! :)
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