The Demon in the Freezer

The Demon in the Freezer

A True Story

Book - 2002
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"The bard of biological weapons captures the drama of the front lines." -Richard Danzig, former secretary of the navy The first major bioterror event in the United States-the anthrax attacks in October 2001-was a clarion call for scientists who work with "hot" agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer, his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of Usamriid, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the headquarters of the U.S. biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense. Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at Usamriid, a wry virologist who cut his teeth on Ebola, one of the world's most lethal emerging viruses, has ORCON security clearance that gives him access to top secret information on bioweapons. His most urgent priority is to develop a drug that will take on smallpox-and win. Eradicated from the planet in 1979 in one of the great triumphs of modern science, the smallpox virus now resides, officially, in only two high-security freezers-at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and in Siberia, at a Russian virology institute called Vector. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. It is almost certain that illegal stocks are in the possession of hostile states, including Iraq and North Korea. Jahrling is haunted by the thought that biologists in secret labs are using genetic engineering to create a new superpox virus, a smallpox resistant to all vaccines. Usamriid went into a state of Delta Alert on September 11 and activated its emergency response teams when the first anthrax letters were opened in New York and Washington, D.C. Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government's response to the attacks and takes us into the ongoing FBI investigation. His story is based on interviews with top-level FBI agents and with Dr. Steven Hatfill. Jahrling is leading a team of scientists doing controversial experiments with live smallpox virus at CDC. Preston takes us into the lab where Jahrling is reawakening smallpox and explains, with cool and devastating precision, what may be at stake if his last bold experiment fails.
Publisher: New York: Random House, c2002.
ISBN: 9780375508561


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Jul 08, 2019

Richard Preston is an excellent author, and I recommend "The Hot Zone" to anyone who wants to have the pants scared off them - if you like horror and are feeling jaded, a little light Ebola reading will reset your scare thresholds. So when I stumbled across "Demon in the Freezer" I expected to learn about smallpox, be scared out of my wits, and have it all wrapped up with heroic scientists saving the day at the end. Maybe my expectations were too high. This is a scary, cautionary tale about smallpox and all the scientists simultaneously working to preserve and eradicate this terrible disease. There is a little bit of anthrax research thrown in as well, because the anthrax scares following 9/11/2001 went hand-in-hand with smallpox scares, and that is where this book stumbles. It was published before the culprit behind the anthrax mailings was identified, and the book suffers from that weakness, as it betrays a large gap in Preston's research (and patience, if he had held out just a little bit longer he would have had a too-strange-to-be-true finale). Fans of Richard Preston - pick this up but know that the ending will leave you wishing for more. If your interest is in learning more about smallpox, or reading a thriller, look elsewhere.

Sep 14, 2012

Very frightening book. Glad we have such tight security on the freezers, but the most memorable line in the book is: "Russians will lie even when it's against their own best interest." So wash your hands often and hope no one is insane enough to awaken the demon.

Nov 22, 2010

Wonderful book

Nov 08, 2007



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