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Extended Audio Sample The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story Audiobook, by Richard Preston Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (4,209 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Richard Preston Narrator: J. Paul Boehmer, Paul Boehmer Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2002 ISBN: 9780736697866
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The first major bioterror event in the United States—the anthrax attacks in October 2001—was a clarion call for scientists who work with “hot” agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer, his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of Usamriid, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the headquarters of the US biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense.

Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at Usamriid, a wry virologist who cut his teeth on Ebola, one of the world’s most lethal emerging viruses, has ORCON security clearance that gives him access to top secret information on bioweapons. His most urgent priority is to develop a drug that will take on smallpox—and win. Eradicated from the planet in 1979 in one of the great triumphs of modern science, the smallpox virus now resides, officially, in only two high-security freezers—at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and in Siberia at a Russian virology institute called Vector. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. It is almost certain that illegal stocks are in the possession of hostile states, including Iraq and North Korea. Jahrling is haunted by the thought that biologists in secret labs are using genetic engineering to create a new superpox virus, a smallpox resistant to all vaccines.

Usamriid went into a state of Delta Alert on September 11 and activated its emergency response teams when the first anthrax letters were opened in New York and Washington, DC. Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government’s response to the attacks and takes us into the ongoing FBI investigation. His story is based on interviews with top-level FBI agents and with Dr. Steven Hatfill.

Jahrling is leading a team of scientists doing controversial experiments with live smallpox virus at CDC. Preston takes us into the lab where Jahrling is reawakening smallpox and explains, with cool and devastating precision, what may be at stake if his last bold experiment fails.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[Blends] terror, technology, and trivia…[Preston] has probably done more than any other writer to establish a nationwide imperative to think about infectious agents as global threats and potential weapons.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Preston uses his considerable storytelling skills to show us the heroes who fought smallpox, not for money or glory but simply because they wanted to leave behind a better world than they had found.”

    Dallas Morning News

  • “Vivid testimony…The alarms he raises are real ones…With his genius for vivid detail and telling anecdote, Preston adds frissons of his own…His real métier lies in intimate and exhaustive interviews with experts on the front line.”

    Newsday

  • “Riveting…Better-than-fiction characters…Preston had terrific access to people and the facilities typically off-limits.”

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  • “Preston captivates…A frighteningly real account of the virus and its potential to explode globally.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “Compelling…Preston charts the tragic miscalculations and the geopolitical maneuvers that led from the triumph of eradication to the possible threat of a deliberate epidemic…Preston is a master at explaining what’s important…A reminder of the lifesaving promise of global cooperation.”

    San Jose Mercury News

  • “Lyrical as well as explanatory…Preston is a helpful guide, translating complex scientific situations into everyday language.”

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  • “Riveting…Startling new insights into the government’s reaction to the anthrax mailings.”

    Hartford Courant

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2002 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Science and Technology

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jesselyn | 2/15/2014

    " If you enjoyed The Hot Zone or any other literary non-fiction about diseases or epidemiology, you'll certainly enjoy this. Much like The Hot Zone, but a look at smallpox, so it has more background history than ebola which I found very interesting. WARNING: SMALLPOX IS GROSS. Preston's graphic descriptions don't particularly both me, but this and his other books are not for those with weak stomaches. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan Rozelle | 2/10/2014

    " Had fun reading about smallpox while at a Poxvirus conference. Not quite as exciting as the Hot Zone but worth the read...especially if you're a scientist. More nice insight into the inner workings of RIID/CDC, however I always wonder how much is exaggerated to the point of becoming untrue? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robert Brase | 2/10/2014

    " If any one remembers the anthrax scare from a few years back here is the real story behind what was going on. Preston also tells how the same researchers that were working on the anthrax were playing with smallpox. And as cute of a name as it has, smallpox could be the real devastating bitch in a bottle. The people that work with these and other level 4 germies are some amazing folks. This is one of those books that, if you are interested in this type of thing, is not to be missed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alice | 2/5/2014

    " 3 and a half stars. This book is mostly about the small pox virus. Although the small pox disease has been eradicated from the planet, the virus is stored in freezeers and, in the wrong hands could easily be used as a bioterrorist weapon. I wouldn't recommend this to most people who have trouble reading non-fiction. I like non-fiction and I found it interesting--somewhat dry, but easy to move over that material quickly without getting lost. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Abbey | 2/1/2014

    " Too many side trails and superfluous details, but the last fourth of the book makes up for the wandering focus. Now I need to read more about weaponization of biologicals so I can continue to scare the bejeezus out of myself. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susannah | 1/22/2014

    " Not quite as good as The Hot Zone, but I liked it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Valerie | 1/11/2014

    " Pretty quick and informative read, even if the efforts to make it read like a novel seemed a bit forced at times. Rather creepy actually...might make you feel paranoid...or just really wish you could get a small pox vaccine like NOW. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Priya | 1/3/2014

    " I read this book after my favorite professor recommended it. It was a really interesting, true account of what the world is like post-smallpox and how we got here. It was especially interesting to me, a lover of all things virus and vaccine-related, and a former resident of MD and current resident of GA, the two locations in which this book takes place. It was also very cool to see a lot of familiar names...professors I took classes from at Emory were integral to the smallpox eradication. It may be a little dry to someone outside of the field but an important history lesson nevertheless. Love this book! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ellen Louise | 12/30/2013

    " A fascinating look into the history of Smallpox eradication and the emergence of bioterror weapons. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachel Myers | 12/30/2013

    " Creepy book about the ture story of the smallpox virus and the missing vials from the former USSR "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Andrea | 12/28/2013

    " A very scary read, but dry, dry, dry.....I didn't even finish the last couple chapters. Just couldn't bring myself to do it! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mari | 12/18/2013

    " A junk-food read; I had hoped for more debth. Interesting, but could be handled in a less "sensationalist" manner. Characters are less than 3-dimensionally presented. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Krista | 12/5/2013

    " I'm a public health geek, of course I liked it :) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tiffany | 12/2/2013

    " This was one of the most terrifying books I've ever read. As a molecular biologist, I could all-too-clearly picture the horrors laid out by the author. Really well-done all around. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brandon Dean | 11/6/2013

    " Interesting storyline, combining the anthrax attacks of Fall 2001, with the the eradication of smallpox in the late 1970s. If you're interested in learning about the potential for biological warfare and disease outbreaks, this is a good, digestible serving. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Morgan | 10/15/2013

    " This book is really a great book. I especially enjoyed reading how the smallpox swept through history, and I was intrigued with its use as a bioweapon today. It is because of this book, along with a few others, I know what I want to be if I get the chance. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alison | 7/2/2013

    " This was not as good as The Hot Zone, but it was still an interesting book. This addresses the risk of smallpox making a reentry into the world. It also discusses the anthrax attacks of 2001. It would have been helpful to have some of the information sourced throughout the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan | 1/14/2013

    " Chilling. The book presents how plausible (and easy) it would be for a terrorist group or rogue nation to weaponize smallpox and use it as catastrophic weapon. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brenda Wright | 7/28/2012

    " Should be one everyone's "I need to read list" just because you are a vulnerable and hopefully educated human "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kunke5 | 3/25/2012

    " It was OK. I wish he had stayed on a straight story- he could even have included some real science- instead of trying so hard with the "character development." Still, a worthwhile read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laura Larson | 1/12/2012

    " The author could have done a better job explaining the connection between Smallpox (what most of the book is about) and Anthrax (what the subject initially appears to be), but the content was captivating and well-composed for laymen readers of virology and similar topics. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 tgrantl | 12/16/2011

    " Story of the US anthrax attacks. A great follow-up to The Hot Zone. Some of the characters interviewed here were detailed in Alibek's Biohazard. I recommend you read both of those books before this one. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sondra Manske | 11/8/2011

    " Demons in the Freezer was not as exciting as the Hot Zone. If you like to learn about real events concerning anthrax and small pox...this is a decent read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amanda | 6/17/2011

    " Incredibly disturbing account of smallpox and bio-warfare. But I think people should read it and be informed of the threat that exists. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 justine | 5/28/2011

    " This book was nowhere as exciting as the Hot Zone, but good enough. Smallpox just doesn't provide fear like the Ebola virus. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 5/6/2011

    " I loved it. If you like health care and medical stories, you will love this book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kendar88 | 3/27/2011

    " Read only a couple hours. Some very gross stuff describing the diseases. Bits were interesting, but I didn't want to wade through all the gross stuff to get to them. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hope | 3/23/2011

    " This book was was really interesting and good! It makes you a little worried if there is ever another outbreak though! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matt | 3/12/2011

    " Fascinating book about the eradication of smallpox and it's potential use as a bioweapon. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laurie | 2/25/2011

    " This is a true story about biological weapons and their locations. This is a must read! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jill | 2/23/2011

    " Very interesting read, but not for the worrier. It talks about the threat of a biological attack, in particular from small pox. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lize | 1/29/2011

    " Covers smallpox and anthrax in the same stomach-churning style as he did in "The Hot Zone". Fascinating, but very gross. Don't make my mistake and read it while eating. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jessica | 1/26/2011

    " I love his writing style and wish there were more book written by him. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shana | 1/14/2011

    " A facinating and dramatic history of the devistation of small pox and battle to eradicate it. "

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About the Author
Author Richard Preston

Richard Preston is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Cobra Event and The Demon in the Freezer. A writer for the New Yorker since 1985, Preston won the American Institute of Physics Award and is the only nondoctor ever to have received the CDC’s Champion of Prevention Award. Preston attended Pomona College and recievied his PhD from Princeton University. He lives outside New York City.

About the Narrators

Paul Boehmer is an American actor best known for his numerous appearances in the Star Trek universe. He began his audiobook work in 2000 and has since lent his voice to many fiction and nonfiction titles. He has won nine AudioFile Earphones Awards as well as the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration in 2009 and 2014. Between books, he is active in regional theaters across the country. His television appearances include guest spots on Nip/Tuck and Numb3rs.

Paul Boehmer is an American actor best known for his numerous appearances in the Star Trek universe. He began his audiobook work in 2000 and has since lent his voice to many fiction and nonfiction titles. He has won nine AudioFile Earphones Awards as well as the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration in 2009 and 2014. Between books, he is active in regional theaters across the country. His television appearances include guest spots on Nip/Tuck and Numb3rs.