The Cobra Event by Richard Preston
1997 Random House
Finished in September 1998
Rating: 3/5 (Good)
Seventeen-year-old Kate Moran wakes one morning to the beginnings of a head cold but shrugs it off and goes to school anyway. By her mid-morning art class, Kate's runny nose gives way to violent seizures and a hideous scene of self-cannibalization. She dies soon after. When a homeless man meets a similarly gruesome and mystifying fate, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta sends pathologist Alice Austen to investigate. What she uncovers is the work of a killer, a man who calls himself Archimedes and is intent on spreading his deadly Cobra virus throughout New York City. A silent crisis erupts, with Austen and a secret FBI forensic team rushing to expose the terrorist.
Even more frightening than Preston's story about the fictitious Cobra virus, however, is the truth that lies beneath it. As the author writes in his introduction, "The nonfiction roots of this book run deep.... My sources include eyewitnesses who have seen a variety of biological-weapons installations in different countries, and people who have developed and tested strategic bioweapons." In fact, the only reason The Cobra Event was not written as nonfiction is that none of Preston's sources would go on record.
Woven throughout the novel are sections of straight nonfiction reporting that reveal the terrifying truth about the development of biological weapons and the clandestine operations of Russia and Iraq. Three years of research and more than 100 interviews with high-level sources in the FBI, the U.S. military, and the scientific community went into The Cobra Event. The result is sure to shock you.
My Original Notes (1998):
Spellbinding. Gross detail. Not very well-written, yet suspenseful. Somewhat anticlimactic and predictable. Soon to be a movie?
My Current Thoughts:
I read The Hot Zone (also by Preston) a few years before this one and judging by my original notes, enjoyed that book better than The Cobra Event. However, I remember what a disturbing read this was and doubt I could read anything like it now. Too frightening! Count me out for Preston's upcoming release of Crisis in the Red Zone (Book 4 of the Dark Biology Series)