23 April 2009

25. The Cobra Event

The Cobra Event - Richard Preston

This book was written in 1997 and is about a biological terrorist attack on New York City. Supposedly, Bill Clinton, then President of the United States of America, read this book and then had the federal government to a feasibility study on the events that were fictionalized within the pages. In my opinion, it is possible that something like this could take place.
I enjoyed reading the story and identified with a few of the characters. Some of them were a little over the top. One guy was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq and did some things that would probably have gotten him killed in the real world. Most of it was pretty believable.
One part of the book really got me freaked out. Every once in a while I will have a dream in which I am stuck somewhere and waiting to die. Nobody can find me to help me get out. I am going to be there until I either starve or suffocate. These dreams really freak me out, make me sweat, get my heart racing, and then I can't sleep any more. Whatever.
One part of the book has a character chasing the terrorist through unfinished subway tunnels under the streets of New York. He ends up in a small tunnel (18x24 inches) to escape a bio-grenade and the concrete behind him collapses. He is trapped. He has lost radio communications because he is under ground. Nobody knows where he is. He starts to panic. The descriptions used by the author of what this man was feeling and thinking were so familiar that I was getting short of breath. Then the character creeps forward and ends up hanging upside down in a vertical shaft, unable to move, in the dark, with nobody knowing he is there. The terror that scene put in me was unmatched by anything I have ever read. Just thinking about it is freaking me out. I think I will stop writing about that now. Ugh.
The writing was extremely technical concerning the whole biological stuff. Production of viruses, DNA manipulation, descriptions of bio-labs, equipment used for detection and production of biological agents, etc etc. If you like technological stuff you will like this book.
My father-in-law works for General Dynamics Advanced Technical Products division. He is a systems engineer and has been working on the chemical-biological detection machines used by the military. These were deployed all over the country after 9-11. He saw this book and was very interested in a thing called the Felix. It is a fictional machine that does pretty much exactly what his machine does. I will lend him this book and see what he thinks.
SPOILER PARAGRAPH: In case you care, the terrorist gets killed in a horrible way, some people die in horrible ways also, but the HUGE catastrophe is narrowly avoided. There are casualties, but not what it could have been. That was predictable. After the story ends there is a kind of epilogue where the genetically engineered virus has made it's way into the rat population...therefore leaving the future up in the air. Yeah yeah yeah.
I enjoyed this one and would recommend it to people who like the techno-thriller type of books. I love them.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an intense read. I like the thriller part but prefer the low tech type. I can identify with your dream too!