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Panic in Level 4


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About the Author

Richard Preston is the bestselling author of The Hot Zone, The Demon in the Freezer, The Wild Trees, and the novel The Cobra Event. A writer for The New Yorker since 1985, Preston is the only nondoctor to have received the Centers for Disease Control's Champion of Prevention Award. He also holds an award from the American Institute of Physics. Preston lives outside of New York City.


Adult/High School-Preston gets to the heart of these nonfiction essays by placing himself in the center of the story. The "panic" of the book's title refers to his own when his biohazard suit was breached and he feared he may have been exposed to one of the deadliest known viruses. Two of the pieces involve the brothers Chudnovsky, mathematicians so closely dependent on one another that they refer to themselves as The Mathematician. The author was able to disappear as an interviewer to the extent that he became part of the brothers' portrait. At one point, one Chudnovsky says to the other: "The interviewer answers our questions.... The interviewer becomes a person in the story." Preston used this skill of blending into his accounts to his advantage. Whether he was strapping on gear to climb mammoth hemlocks with arborists trying to understand the diseases killing the great trees of the world or acting as an off-road driver for a couple of men with the disease of self-cannibalization, Preston fit in like a good supporting actor who also happened to be the cameraman, writer, and director. Teens will find these stories compelling. The author has the eyes and language of a fine novelist, but he has the mind of a scientist who is trying to understand some of the most fascinating mysteries of our age.-Will Marston, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer's James Lurie brings his rich, honeyed baritone to Preston's book of essays on radical science. The book is rather uneven. The first chapter is an overly self-referential account of Preston's own laboratory encounter with the Ebola virus he made famous in The Hot Zone; the other essays are more traditional portraits of scientists on the frontier of discovery. Lurie conjures an engaging and credible Russian accent when speaking for two immigrant mathematicians who are racing to determine all the digits of pi. But he is inconsistent and strained when attempting a genetics researcher's British accent. Still, listeners will enjoy the way both Preston and Lurie uncover the humanity of great researchers, whether they are attempting to save hemlock and chestnut trees from fast-encroaching diseases or help those suffering from Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, a rare condition that causes its victims to compulsively consume their own flesh. A Random House hardcover (reviews, Apr. 21). (June) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Preston's collected essays revisit numerous hot zones. With a six-city tour. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"Compelling . . . stories of high scientific adventure."--Seattle Times

"[Preston's] stories sparkle with images of stark beauty and darkness; mature reflections about the complex worlds we all occupy."--Denver Post "With his 1994 sensation The Hot Zone, science writer Richard Preston terrified millions. . . . In his new book, Panic in Level 4, he continues to probe nature's stranger side."--USA Today

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