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The Cobra Event


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About the Author

Richard Preston is the author of three nonfiction books, The Hot Zone (about the Ebola virus), American Steel (about a revolutionary steel mill), and First Light (about modern astronomy). He is a contributor to The New Yorker and has won numerous awards, including the McDermott Award in the Arts from MIT, the American Institute of Physics Award in science writing, and the Overseas Press Club of America Whitman Basso Award for best reporting in any medium on environmental issues.

The Cobra Event is Richard Preston's first novel.


YA‘What happens when one crazed scientist takes it upon himself to develop and release a new biological weapon that will "thin out" the human race? A doctor working for the Centers for Disease Control first notices some strange evidence in a young girl's death. Soon other bodies are arriving at the morgue in similar condition. The police, the FBI, and national medical and science personnel become involved in trying to get to the bottom of the deadly disease that is attacking New York City. Though the details in this novel are fictional, they are based on the history of biological weapons and the advanced genetic engineering and biotechnology that is available today. Despite the use of potentially confusing technical terms, the story line is easy to follow and fast paced. Sections of the narrative that sideline into history and worldwide political events are not crucial to the plot and may be skipped over. Realistically rendered characters hold center stage. The symptoms described in this story are frightening, and often presented in morbidly graphic detail. Fans of the horror genre are bound to enjoy this one.‘Anita Short, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA

Preston, who scared us to death with his account of the Ebola virus in The Hot Zone, fictionalizes real events that could spiral into something far worse than Ebola. No details until publication.

"The nonfiction roots of this book run deep," writes Preston while introducing his much anticipated first novel, a kind of fictional sequel to The Hot Zone. Indeed, where that bestselling report on natural viruses run amok employed fiction techniques to dramatic effect, this exciting tale of bioengineered viruses on the rampage leans on the sort of cool, fact-packed prose usually associated with nonfiction‘or with the sort of cautionary science thriller aced by Michael Crichton. Like Crichton, who's an obvious influence, Preston knows how to explode from the gate: his opening, in which a schoolgirl attacked by an unknown virus spasms and bleeds and eats her own lip, will plunge readers into shock. The subsequent story proceeds crisply, focusing on how a female physician at the Centers for Disease Control and assorted FBI agents trace the incident to a madman who aims to decimate our species through explosives laden with the virus‘nicknamed "Cobra." There's authoritative exposition about viruses and their exploitation by military, political and financial interests, as well as abundant forensic and procedural descriptions, including graphically detailed autopsies. There's a pumped-up finale, too, as feds chase the terrorist through the New York subways. What's missing‘and what separates Crichton from Preston‘are vigorous characters and the passions and strong dramatic arc they can embody. Preston's heroes and villains are neatly tagged but only molecule deep; none develop substantially and all exist only to further the plot, which itself seems designed only to further an idea: that bioterrorism is viable, and terrifying. Preston marshals his narrative with sufficient precision to persuade and terrify readers (who will be legion)‘but more from the horror of a grotesque diorama come to life than from the moral terror that more accomplished storytelling can engender. 300,000 first printing; Literary Guild main selection; film rights to Fox2000. (Nov.)

"Enormously entertaining."--The New York Times Book Review

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