Hot Zone "errors"

Angelika M Longacre longacre at selway.umt.edu
Tue Feb 14 17:14:42 EST 1995


First off, let me make clear that I am stealing time on my wife's login.  
Next, I am an English major exiled to work in technology.  Those things 
in mind, my problem with "The Hot Zone" is that it is very poorly 
written.  Any time the author had a chance to throw in some half-baked 
literary allusion, he did---a case in point is scientists on a boat 
sailing into a "heart of darkness."  What a gas, the guy must have read 
Conrad, or maybe watched "Apocalypse Now".  He writes like a 
first year English Lit major doing Work Study in the Biology department.  
As for the science,  when one victim "crashes and bleeds out" 
the author refers to the virus pouring out of the guy looking for another 
victim---is that good science or simply a pathetic fallacy?  Do viruses 
"look" for victims?

Another example of shoddy work happens after the author, whose name, 
bless God, has escaped me, tells the story of the woman going to work in 
her space suit, cutting through her gloves and exposing herself to Ebola, 
then maybe a hundred pages later suggests that the woman is sought out 
because it's well known how good she is in a suit.  Yeah, right.  I'm not 
saying that the actual people involved weren't good, I'm simply saying 
that this author didn't spend enough time at the desk with this "novel."

Maybe the blame rests with the guy's editors,  who surely should have 
gone through the book with greater care.  Some of the sentences run to 
great length without any point, others are thrown together in a haphazard 
attempt to create "mood."  A little trimming could have produced a much 
stronger work.  As it is, "The Hot Zone" represents a weak real-life 
cousin to "The Andromeda Strain."  I'd rather read scientific articles on 
the subject than bad science "realism."

Barton Longacre




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