Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bleeding Out

I'm not one to read my bestsellers.  It's not that I shun them.  Not even close.  It's just that a lot of what I enjoy reading never makes it to any bestseller list.

I had always been interested in Richard Preston's The Hot Zone, mainly because I have an interest in viruses and the like.  That interest never resulted in me picking up the book, though.

Last year someone left a very tattered paperback copy of the book on a table in the kitchen at work.  I snagged it and just got around to reading it.

Fucking terrifying. 

Not terrifying in the Stephen King definition, but terrifying in the "holy Hell, this stuff happens and will happen again is there is nothing I can do about it" kind of way.

Ebola Zaire is not something to mess around with under any circumstance.

I could see why this was a bestseller.  It was fast-paced, well-written and targeted a general audience.  It worked in all the ways Leonard G. Horowitz's Emerging Viruses didn't.  (And I actually enjoyed that book, which came out three years earlier than Preston's book.

One of the problems with books about viruses is that there is an almost deer-in-headlights feel you get with them.  You go into them knowing the situation is bad, but you come out of them realizing you had no idea how screwed you were.  Like magic, the wool is lifted from your eyes, and it is a very unsettling feeling.  You have to respect a book that can do that, but at the same time it is mighty frustrating.

I know there are plenty of good books on medical terrors just floating around out there.  Some are fiction, others are not.  I can read about one a year before I go crazy, though.   For the exact same reason I stopped watching ER.  I get paranoid I have or will have whatever the major malady happens to be. 

If there's a better reason to stay away from bestsellers, I'd love to know it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty sure I read Emerging Viruses. I've read just about everything I could find on viruses both new and old (love books about the plague years). I think Preston, however, makes it more digestible for people who aren't already fascinated by and well-versed in the term "hemorrhagic fever." Viruses are beautiful little creatures. Something so tiny can take down entire civilizations, and has. Only nature ranks up there in such a sheer destructive power that is completely devoid of violence. Viruses kill completely by accident. They want to live. Their goal is to keep us alive as long as possible. But sometimes they just don't know their own strength. Nature, too, slaughters masses completely by accident. It's amazing. Far more astonishing than the violence humans are capable of. Human violence, for the most part, bores me. Sure, some violent criminals are fascinating in some ways, but to me, a virus or a volcano is far more powerful than piddly little men and women enacting piddly little acts of "look at me,I've got some sort of random mundane mental illness" violence.

    Ebola is particularly nasty, but also not very hearty. It doesn't survive the long haul, not like smallpox did, or the ever-romantic bubonic plague. Although the plague lost it's bite over the years, it will always be my favorite. I sound like some sort of freak. I swear I'm not hiding in my basement plotting to unleash biological horrors on the earth. I don't think my basement would support a level four lab anyway. Besides, I have far to much respect for those little bugs to mess around with them without years of training. I am, however, very jealous of those who do get to handle them on a daily basis.