• The Cobra Event

    This is the book we read in Biotechnology:
    The Book:
    REVIEW:
    This book sent chills down the back of my neck because it deals with the possibility of what could be a future horror. 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.
     

    Richard Preston is noted for his nonfiction book, "The Hot Zone," which deals with deadly new viruses that seem to be emerging from the depths of Africa--the Ebola and Marburg strains that damage virtually all of the tissues in the body.

    Ebola swept through at least 55 villages in Zaire in 1976, leaving unbelievable carnage behind. It is deadlier than the Marburg virus which is certainly bad enough. Preston swims in a pool among virus hunters and biohazard specialists, assimilating their knowledge and using his storytelling skills to impart to the reader some grasp of the extent of viral terror. This time, the author turns to fiction to tell his story, but the sense of dread is only amplified.

    This book
    sent chills down the
    back of my neck because
    it deals with the possibility
    of what could be
    a future horror.
    Consider the existence of particles so small that 50, lined up in a row, would span the thickness of a human hair. One or two, trapped in the lung -- if used as a weapon -- could cause a fatal infection in as few as three days. They do not fall out of the air. One cannot see them, smell them, taste them, or feel their presence until one starts getting ill.

    In New York City, two people suddenly become ill with weird symptoms. One is a 17-year-old student named Kate Moran, the other a homeless person known locally as the Harmonica Man because he rides the subways playing the harmonica and asking for handouts. Both go into toxic seizures, chewing their lips, biting off their tongues and quickly dying.

    The city's authorities do what most would do about two very strange happenings: they call the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and ask for help. They get Alice Austen, a 29-year-old member of the Epidemic Intelligence Service who has also trained as a medical pathologist. She is a bit reluctant to traipse off to The Big Apple but agrees to go.

    Once there, she is intrigued by a mystery. What possible connection could there be between an upper-class schoolgirl and a homeless man, except that both used the subways? Dr. Austen plays detective. In Kate Moran's room, she finds a small box. On it are tiny black letters: Human trial #2, April 12, Archimedes Fecit. At that point Alice doesn't know it but she has found the first clues to a person or persons with the ability to wipe out a major part of the city's population.

    Before long the FBI, the Army, public health officials, and other federal agencies are involved in the hunt for a seemingly invisible source possessing the knowledge and means to manufacture a virus of unbelievable magnitude and horror. The search is a heart-pounding ride through the streets and subway tunnels of New York City. There is death and near death along the way. There is no lack of suspense for the reader who, like this reviewer, is bound to have a few cold chills from "The Cobra Event."

    Review by Lloyd Armour, retired newspaper editor

    EXPECTATIONS:
    •  Part 1=> Essay (minimum 4 pages)
      • Standard English rubric (25 pts)
      • Overall summary (20 pts)
      • Elements of biotech and forensics included (10 pts)
    • Part 2=> Character summaries (minimum paragraph for each)
      • 5 characters (some mandatory- 5 pts)
      • overall complete (4 each- 20 pts)
    • Part 3=> Relating to class (minimum 1/2 page)
      • Relevance (15 pts)
        • Relate to our class
      • Examples (5 pts)