The Hot Zone

A
September 23, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Hot Zone Richard Preston (Random House, $23) Readers will lose out if the planned-and overhyped-Ridley Scott movie Crisis in the Hot Zone overshadows the book that details the story. Because this petrifying account of a brush with a true-life Andromeda Strain is guaranteed to make the world you live in a more frightening place. The ultimate bogeyman, living an airplane ride away in the African rain forest, is a filovirus, or ”thread” virus, called Ebola strain, which kills 9 out of 10 victims and mutates faster than scientists can develop vaccines. Preston’s artful blend of science and suspense focuses on a near outbreak outside Washington, D.C., in 1989 (in which hundreds of monkeys died before the virus was contained), but first he gets our attention with the gruesome 1980 death of a Frenchman infected in Kenya (victims ”crash and bleed out,” the body’s internal organs liquefying and exploding into a puddle of blood, rotted tissue, and black vomit). Interpreting filoviruses as an environmental response to human destruction of the biosphere, Preston delivers a stunning wake-up call: Somewhere out there, in a section of tropical rain forest about to be razed, deadly life-forms exist for which the human race is just so much meat. A Rhonda Johnson

The Hot Zone

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Richard Preston
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The Hot Zone

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