Top positive review
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Excellent description of the threats from Anthrax & Smallpox
on 19 October 2003
This is the 3rd book of what Richard Preston now refers to as his Dark Biology trilogy. He is undoubtedly one of the most informative writers on this topic, which certainly should be giving great cause for concern.
I would strongly recommend the other 2 books : The Hot Zone is a non-fictional account about Ebola; the 2nd the Cobra Event is a novel, all the more effective for the background knowledge he had acquired.
In this book Preston reverts back to the non-fiction genre to tell an upto date story about Anthrax (following the as yet unsolved incidents in the USA) and Smallpox (and the activities of the Russians in violation of International Treaty).
There are other books available that had already discussed Anthrax or and/or Smallpox, so some of the material I already knew, but the section that was news to me, and thus more fascinating, was the description about the Smallpox outbreak at Meschede Hospital in Germany in 1970.
If I have one criticism about Preston, it is that whilst he tries to show you the human side of what the participants were thinking at the time, he sometimes plays it to excess giving out superfluous information. This may be of use in a novel to create a sense of character, but in a non-fictional account, it isn't necessary. For example, instead of just saying he has lunch with one of his interviewees, you get the brand name of the beer that they drank (Molson). Elsewhere he describes meetings with others that they were drinking Glenmorangie & Linkwood Malt Whisky - at least he saved us from saying how old the Whisky was, or whether or not they had water with it.
Despite these Product Placement issues, he is an author to follow.