The “Cobra Event” by Richard Preston is a fiction –based novel and its plot is set in the city of New York. It revolves around biological weapons i.e. a living organism that is infectious and is used as a weapon mostly in the form of small microscopic particles and spread by releasing into the air. Another main theme of the novel revolves around forensics which is the science of looking at physical evidence to analyze a crime and to identify its perpetrator, and the seriousness of biological weapons in general. In this book the events, characters, and the disease “Cobra” are fictional, but the historic background, government structures, and science are real or based on what is possible.
According to Entertainment Weekly,
“THIS BOOK SCARED THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF ME. . . . Manages to grab you with the authenticity of its scientific detective work and haunt you with its sheer plausibility.”
The above quote truly describes the reader’s first reaction to the thriller novel written by Richard Pretson.
One of the major reasons behind the popularity of this book is its highly realistic nature. The story is awesome, hyper-realistic and scary enough and is likely to make the reader paranoid. To add to the hyper-realism because of the writing style of the book, Richard Pretson has also included a few chapters dealing with the past experiments done by the past US governments relevant to bio weapons. It also discusses Russia’s bio weapons history and this makes the thriller highly educational as well. It was a great book, equally chilling and at the same time believable. It’s the reality that gets the reader, knowing this could happen in the USA at any time. It is not science fiction or the work of an author with an overactive imagination. It is a vision of a very real threat of viral warfare.
The reader becomes so engrossed in the description of the disease caused by bio weapons that it would not be wrong to say that instead of being character driven, the story is disease-driven. Soon enough the disease takes the place of the main character of the thriller novel and makes the reader fully engrossed in itself by revealing newer and newer facets and dimensions every time. Preston is equally adept at dramatizing contagion. Although the plot requires a bad guy — in this case a genetic engineering wizard who calls himself Archimedes — the real villain here is the madman’s ”brainpox,” which includes a pinch of an obscure moth virus, smallpox and Lesch-Nyhan disease, a rare birth disorder. The brainpox requires otherwise decorous human beings to gobble their bottom lips, bite off their own fingers, and in extreme cases to ”enucleate” themselves (remove one’s own eyeball) spontaneously. The early symptoms of the brainpox are the same as those of a rhinovirus (glossary: ”the common cold virus”), and while reading I noticed that my nose was a bit leaky and thus couldn’t help worrying. (Collin , 1997)
Overall, The Cobra Event by Richard Preston was an amazing and interesting book. It’s engaging, informational, and has great suspense. It really opens one’s eyes and stresses upon the fact that how important it is to pay attention to biological weapons because of the extreme dangers that they pose.
Harrison, C. (1997). A Hotter Zone. Retrieved August 21, 2010 from NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/11/02/reviews/971102.02harrist.html.