am 18. November 2015
This is a great book. It is about biological warfare and weapons and you really do not want to be infected by some of the concoctions that could easily be brewed and loaded onto a warhead.
The core of the story is about a deluded nutcase who wants to cut the population down significantly, much like the Black Death did in the 16th and 17th centuries, basically for the good of the survivors. New York's population should be decimated first before this guy and his vicious virus move on round the States.
The virus he has engineered is gruesome and the descriptions of its effects are worse than gruesome. Nevertheless, the mixture could probably be manufactured by some sadistic laboratory and relatively easily spread. It's a nice little mix including smallpox and the common cold and it attacks the brain and kills very quickly - and horribly - anyone who comes into contact with it, and there is no treatment.
The book kept me on the edge of my chair for quite a while. It was an enthralling read, excitement all the way from cover to cover.
Highly recommended but a strong stomach is advised.
am 8. Juli 1999
When I bought The Cobra Event, I didn't think I would enjoy it. I assumed it would join the ranks of many other unfinished books that I couldn't bring myself to attempt to read again. Within the first five minutes of reading this book, I was hooked. This book is thrilling and fast-paced. Preston describes every detail with intricate wording and accuracy while not overwording the less important elements. It also raises many questions about the medical profession and diseases throughout the world. The reader also learns while reading this entertaining book. Also, unlike some novels, I glossary of scientific terms can be found in the back of the book to ensure that the reader throughly understands the happenings in the book. The element of this book that makes it impossible to put down is the thrilling suspence throughout the entire book from the first page to the final sentences. I throughly enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to any reader.
am 19. Oktober 1999
As all the magazine reviews have said, there's a lot of valuable research and privileged information in this book. But what may not be clear, except in the quotation from (of all places) "Entertainment Weekly", is that the writing is quite bad -- as if a very bright scholar or journalist had taken a night-school course in writing an "airport thriller", then talked a friend into publishing it without bringing in a co-writer or a good editor. (An editor is credited, if that's the right word here; I would have withdrawn my name if I were her.)
The plot is a little about forensics and epidemiology, new and interesting to most readers, and a whole lot about silly chases through tunnels and shafts, more like the script for a video game than a silly TV movie. What's missing, despite a few tries, is any insight into the only interesting character -- who is, as usual, the Bad Guy, not the Lovely Doctor or the Brave Agent. Worse, by making him a lone madman with a fixed address, rather than a resourceful and rational group, the entire plot becomes "Catch the Serial Murderer", his weapon almost irrelevant, rather than "Defeat Bio-Terrorism", without which there's no reason to publish or read this particular piece of fiction. The bookstores are already full of cops-versus-psycho novels.
At the sentence level, Preston's style is full of incorrect syntax, idiom, and semantics; mangled metaphors; pointless brand-names and jargon; jarring shifts between action and exposition -- sometimes within a single paragraph. It's like a poor imitation of the clumsily didactic novels of James Michener or Leon Uris.
Perhaps there's something infectious about bio-terrorism as the theme of a bad novel. Tom Clancy's "Rainbow Six" has a very similar theme; the Big Bad Guy and his gang have the same technology and the same motivation (pruning, not profit or political change) -- and it's Clancy's most pointless and poorly-written novel.
am 4. Oktober 1998
I was amazed that a reviewer further down said the only good thing about this book was the action-packed ending. My reaction was just the opposite. I could have given this book 4 stars EXCEPT for the ridiculous ending.
First off, the way the killer is found. What a cop-out. If Preston had allowed the killer to be found through forensics, that would have been one thing, but to have the hero and heroine just happen to take a load off right outside the killer's apartment building and just happen to look up at his third-floor window and spy his "high-tech" fan in it ... give me a break. What an incredible lack of imagination on Preston's part.
Then we have this elite squad of special-op FBI SWAT types who are so incredibly dumb-ass that not a single one thinks to bring a flashlight along on a night-time operation.
What next? Oh yes, the killer, who by this time should be having convulsions, throws one of his flash grenades into a chasm, separating the hero and heroine from each other, manages to work his way back around to the woman in total darkness (remember he lost his flashlight) through unfamiliar tunnels in what must have been five minutes time. He's sitting their waiting on her.
But my absolute favorite part is where the hero falls 20-feet down a tunnel, head-first, and ALMOST breaks his neck. Hell, it didn't even seem to hurt him (or his suit). He then procedes to spend what must have been an incredibly long time building a "sticky-probe" to drag the bomb over and diffuse it, all one-handed and upside-down, sitting on his head with his 'almost' broken neck. Can you imagine how long it would take to rip pieces of duct tape and tape Q-tips together one-handed, standing on your head no less? And then afterwards he manages to worm his way out of the tunnel in what seemed to me less than five minutes.
Although I found first 3/4 of this book to be exciting if somewhat over the top, for me the quality of the ending is everything, no matter how good the rest of the book is. And the ending of this book flat out sucked.
am 18. Januar 1998
As someone who has studied virology and microbiology in depth, I loved this book. Dr. Austen, although somewhat dry at times, is exactly what a scientist searching for a missing link should be: thorough, meticulous, cautious, and generally scared out of her wits. I especially liked the irony of and extremism of Archimedes: his realization that human consumption is a plague, yet his self-righteous superiority over the 'human' race cannot escape the fact that he himself is also human, and susceptible to the same biological vulernability and consumptionism. I have also read the HOT ZONE, and I find that I like Preston's mode of nonfiction entwined with fiction in the COBRA EVENT. I liked the flow of it, not to mention that people who are not versed in virology find it easy to read and benefit from the author's handy explanations/definitions. I would not recommend this book to anyone under 15 or so, unless they're studying biology and can handle a fair amount of graphic death scenes without nightmares. For everyone else who doesn't understand what the big deal is with Americans in the UN trying to inspect Iraq, or for anyone who says it 'can't happen here' (both Lassa and Hanta viruses have had outbreaks here in the US in the past 15 years), read this book. Forewarned is forearmed.... Bravo Mr. Preston... Bravo!
am 27. Dezember 1997
Richard Preston, along with his brother Doug (wrote THE RELIC), are both vying to become the new Michael Crichtons. Not only do they each write the sort of techno/science-minded thrillers that Crichton is so famous for, but they both do it in a way that clearly beckons to Hollywood -- "make this into a movie!" (which is all Crichton seems to do today). When an author writes like this, the result can be mixed. In this instance, COBRA EVENT has a very gripping premise, marred somewhat by so-so writing, paper-thin characters, stock villians, and cliched action sequences -- yet somehow, it does all add up to a fairly entertaining read. That's because Preston has hit on an undeniably gripping subject -- bioterrorism -- and so long as he sticks to the basics, he can't go wrong. I would hope for his next fictional effort, he delve a little more into his characters, and not present events in such an obvious Hollywood 3-act structure. I can't help but wonder if after his last book (the non-fiction CRISIS IN THE HOT ZONE) fell apart as a movie and was beaten by the more epic OUTBREAK, if Preston didn't just say "screw it, I'll give 'em what they want!" As a result, COBRA EVENT tends to feel like it's just a tease, or warm-up (or novel length treatment!) for the inevitable $80 million dollar movie for summer '99. (Just the same, here's hoping he can get director Ridley Scott, who was supposed to do the movie version of HOT ZONE, back into the mix and helm this one.)
am 4. April 1998
Richard Preston, in this sequel of sorts to The Hot Zone, has outdone himself. The Hot Zone, which dealt with the deadly disease Ebola, and how close we came to having Ebola strike the U.S. in the form of Ebola Reston (Reston, Virginia), was a near perfect mix of fact and fiction. Now, with The Cobra Event, dealing with biological warfare, Preston has outdone himself again. The book starts off with a death of mind-numbing brutality, caused by an unknown disease. Alice Austen, an epidemiologist from the Centers of Disease Control is sent to investigate. The implications of this new agent, a biological weapon, result in federal agencies scrambling to contain it, and the man (who calls himself Archimedes) spreading it. O.K., in all truth, the fiction of this novel is really a slightly predictable mystery thriller. But that, of course, isn't the draw of the novel. Preston has researched his material extensively, and the result is a highly-enjoyable, fascinating story. Preston complements his storyline with three sections entitled "Invisible History", which take a detour from the plot to explain the real life facts of the events taking place. These sections are well-written and informative. Also, to Preston's credit, he has resolved his problems in placing the climax in this novel. In The Hot Zone Preston climaxed in spectacular format and then let the book slide for entirely too long. In this novel, he climaxes and then ties up loose ends quickly and efficiently. One of Preston's best works, this receives a 9 out of 10 on the Dominion scale. If you liked The Hot Zone you'll love this book!
am 6. Juli 1999
How can I give a book four (and a half) stars but have troubles recommending this book to friends and family? The answer is that I found the whole scenario too real and too damned scary.
A generation ago we feared the atomic bomb, nuclear war, and nuclear winter. But the "good thing" was that our fears included only one major enemy, which we believed to be relatively rational and which we could target ourselves (and I am sure they thought the same about us). The costs, infrastructure, and scientific knoweldge necessary to be a major nuclear threat limited our fears.
Today the phrase "Weapons of Mass Destruction", or WMD includes not just nuclear, but chemical, and biological weapons (ignoring information warfare). Cobra vividly paints the picture why we should be afraid of the biological WMD.
Preston does a wonderful job bringing together so many facts he researched into his story that it gave it a level of realism which added to the fear (how many books have a glossary and several pages dedicated to the research he did).
The only reason I did not give it five stars is that some of the plot struck me as being added for purposes of turning it into a made for TV movie. Chases through darkened tunnels, shoot outs, and the romantic feelings distracted from the main story line (IMHO).
Great story, but read at your own risk.
am 30. Dezember 1997
While I have not read The Hot Zone, I do know that it is nonfiction and I can't help but feel that Mr. Preston should have stuck to that form of writing. I found the scientific information in this book fascinating and terrifying, but couldn't help but wonder as I read the scientific background material: "Is this true, or is it fiction?" The characters were were nothing more than vehicles to propel the plot, and I (as others before me have mentioned)felt that the CDC would have been more directly involved in such a catastrophic outbreak. They would not have (hopefully) sent a mere individual (and one with a very limited background if I read correctly) to investigate. If they had, they certainly would have (hopefully!) increased their presence after the true nature of the outbreak was discovered. This book is an obvious attempt to earn a "real" paycheck via Hollywood. Too frequently I read bestselling popular fiction and get this same feeling. Books like these (and many, many more that are far, far inferior)are meant for commuting on the train or passing an unendurably hot and humid summer day. I would much rather spend my time reading character driven novels and/or books about ideas, such as those by Eric Kraft, John Irving, Sinclair Lewis, George Orwell, or Kurt Vonnegut, not to mention so many others.
am 5. Dezember 1997
I got this book today (Dec 4) and peeked at it during breaks (entering data at Phi Kappa Psi (ugh)). Then plunged into it and go through the entire novel in one sitting!
Comments: I kept getting the idea he was writing this for the movie (coming out? 1999?) instead of a book that is then made into a movie!
Enjoyed the glossary page in the back but would have appreciated a list of characters (I filled up two pages writing down characters to keep track of them!).
Warning: Going to give some stuff away: SPOILERS. Don't read any further if you haven't read the book!
The character of Austen I found so frustrating - especially the attitude she had after she found the virus in the apartment of the 17 year old girl who one of the index cases. She simply tells the housekeeper not to enter - I would think she would be calling CDCP and getting them out to the apartment quickly to seal off the entire apartment ("...don't turn on the air-conditioning!" ugh).
The use of U.N. inspection teams element in the book was well timed considering all the Iraq U.N weapons inspection headlines recently.
Liked the details of the autopsy that the book provided. You need a strong stomach (no pun intended) for those portions of the book (particularly around pages 65 - 72).
Particularly disheartening when the author discussed the way nations have ignored the 1972 Bio, Tox, Weapons Convention.