The “demon” in this enigmatically titled book is not a typical evil entity or entities found in conventional thrillers or horror tales!! It is none other than the deadly smallpox virus! Possibly one of the worst diseases to ever plague humanity, the elimination of smallpox from the planet in 1979 was one of the greatest accomplishments of modern science. For research purposes, two stores were preserved – one at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, USA, and one at the Russian Virology Institute. But the “demon” in the freezer appears to have been unleashed. Almost certainly, some countries possess illegal stocks of the devastating virus.
In this book, Richard Preston unfolds the story of the eradication of smallpox by providing us with insights from advanced, scientific authorities in America, comprising scientists, medical practitioners, researchers, and also government officials. In an endeavor to overcome the potential threat of a premeditated epidemic, virologist Peter Jahrling is heading a group of scientists in experiments with live smallpox at the CDC, attempting to find a cure for the disease.
Preston relates the story of Jahrling’s fight against smallpox, vividly detailing the virus’s history, with in-depth, simplified information put across in a narrative style. From the book, the reader is able to understand the implications of infectious agents as potential biological weapons. Although this book classifies as non-fiction, it reads like a riveting thriller, with larger-than-life characters, especially the aptly named “demon” – a real one! It is not essential to have a medical background to read this book. In fact, Richard Preston himself is not a doctor, which explains his comprehensive and clear style of writing. In addition, at the end of the book a glossary is provided, making this book even more lucid and informative. It is definitely a must-read for individuals interested in gaining insights into the prospects of global biodefense.