Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Hot Zone

Image sourced from here
Things I have learnt while reading this book:

  • Telling you random things about people you are introducing in the book will "make people like them more" (I reckon he got that out of a creative writing class) and also builds up tension. Tension to the point of nauseating boredom. I think if I didn't hear about what kind of animal the intern likes hunting on the weekend, or what song someone's parrot at home likes to sing, the book would be a good 100pp shorter.
  • Oh, and we need the word "intern" explained to us.
  • I also need to have the concept of an Army "mission" explained. "So when the Army decides it wants to do something, it's called a mission. And the mission has a leader. That leader is called a..." oh god kill me now.
  • Women are supposed to clean up after Thanksgiving.
  • When the author discovers a phrase he likes and thinks it is funny, he will use it over and over again, even in inappropriate places.
  • When the author thinks his terminology is better than the facts, he'll tell you what the fact is, but that he's just going to keep on calling it his word. Coz. Who needs facts?
  • Apparently the author doesn't need facts. As I have now discovered that his account of Ebola is incredibly hyped up, exaggerated and borderline fanciful. Who needs facts when you can have people exploding into puddles of blood! What a waste of my time as that's why I was reading a "non-fiction" book on the subject.
  • Stephen King is an idiot if he thinks this is the "One of the most horrifying things I have ever read."

I'm angry. I'm angry and ranty. I feel mislead, manipulated. I was happy to accept that this guy wrote the book 20 years ago, and science hasn't been overly kind to this book. We've learn heaps and it does date the book somewhat. That's fair enough, and also exciting! Look at how much we have learnt and advanced in 20 years!

But then, I found out that he is known to have exaggerated not only the effects of the disease, but the specific "outbreak" of Ebola he is recounting in the book. Why is this book marketed as non-fiction? It is almost negligent in it's aim to induce panic around Ebola.

Do not get me wrong. Ebola is terrifying. It should be contained and treated quickly where it starts, and if we in the Western sphere didn't have our heads so far up our own arses we could have stopped it from getting so big at this point in time. I do not want it, I do not want any one I have ever met to catch it, and I am horrified it's spreading to other continents this week.

HOWEVER, the bastard virus is terrifying enough, it doesn't need some dickhead wanting to sell books to make it sound like if you catch it you turn into the Wicked Witch of the West. I do not want "true" accounts of "real" events packaged to me like a bad American tv drama. Give me the facts, write them in an engaging and interesting way. You'll still sell books. Just maybe not as many to 14 year olds.

Look, to be fair, I knew nothing about filoviruses. I had never heard of Marburg. I now have and it has made a lot more sense now when I've reading articles about Ebola in the news. But I am now questioning everything I have learnt through reading this book as I cannot trust this "knowledge". I've got the shits as even though it was an easy and accessible read, I cannot stand people lying to me about fucking science. There is one area we do not need any more misinformation and ignorance at the moment and that is in all our sciences. Our science literacy at the moment is dropping at an alarming rate, and books like this are not going to help.

Bah. Angry and Ranty.

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