Book Review: Panic In Level Four by Richard Preston

panic-in-level-4-coverBook: Panic In Level Four by Richard Preston

Published May 2008 by Random House|188 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Science

What It’s About:

Bizarre illnesses and plagues that kill people in the most unspeakable ways. Obsessive and inspired efforts by scientists to solve mysteries and save lives. From The Hot Zone to The Demon in the Freezer and beyond, Richard Preston’s bestselling works have mesmerized readers everywhere by showing them strange worlds of nature they never dreamed of.

Panic in Level 4 is a grand tour through the eerie and unforgettable universe of Richard Preston, filled with incredible characters and mysteries that refuse to leave one’s mind. Here are dramatic true stories from this acclaimed and award-winning author, including:

• The phenomenon of “self-cannibals,” who suffer from a rare genetic condition caused by one wrong letter in their DNA that forces them to compulsively chew their own flesh–and why everyone may have a touch of this disease.
• The search for the unknown host of Ebola virus, an organism hidden somewhere in African rain forests, where the disease finds its way into the human species, causing outbreaks of unparalleled horror.
• The brilliant Russian brothers–“one mathematician divided between two bodies”–who built a supercomputer in their apartment from mail-order parts in an attempt to find hidden order in the number pi (π).

In fascinating, intimate, and exhilarating detail, Richard Preston portrays the frightening forces and constructive discoveries that are currently roiling and reordering our world, once again proving himself a master of the nonfiction narrative and, as noted in The Washington Post, “a science writer with an uncommon gift for turning complex biology into riveting page-turners.”

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

Panic On Level 4 seemed like it would be interesting and different and informative, but I ended up not liking it as much as I thought.  I thought it would be a lot more compelling than it actually was.  And this might be an unfair comparison, but it makes me wonder how different the book would be if it were written by Mary Roach.

Each chapter is about something different, so I thought I’d talk about what I thought about each chapter.

  • The Mountains Of Pi: This chapter is about 2 brothers, both mathematicians.  I thought this chapter was boring and uninteresting, and not the best chapter to start the book with, especially given the introduction talks about ebola.   Back to this chapter, though, because ebola does come up later.  I found I didn’t really care about finding however many billions of digits of pi, and why it was so important to them.
  • A Death In The Forest: I don’t remember anything about this chapter, and I’m glad I haven’t returned the book to the library, because I had to flip through this chapter to remember what it was about- this one type of insect that destroys hemlock trees.  I was too bored to actually re-read the chapter.
  • The Search For Ebola: I think this chapter should have started off the book, and it was one of two chapters I was actually interested in.  It seems like there’s a lot we don’t know about it, and I know there was this one video I watched in a couple classes in high school about it.  I would definitely read this chapter if you pick up this book.
  • The Human Kabbalah: This chapter is about the Human Genome Project.  I’ve heard of it, but I don’t really know anything about it.  I’m not surprised by the politics involved in a few different groups working on genomes, and this was the other chapter I was really interested in.  It makes me want to learn more about it.
  • The Lost Unicorn: This about several unicorn tapestries, and this chapter was really out of place.  It didn’t fit with the other chapters (all of which were about math and science and health).  It was definitely one of my least favorite chapters in the book.
  • The Self-Cannibals: This was sort of interesting.  Not as interesting as the chapter about Ebola or the Human Genome Project, but it was better than the bugs in the forest, the Unicorn Tapestries or the pi mathematicians.  I didn’t even know that there were people who, in essence, were self-cannibals, but at the same time, it also shows how weird genes and DNA can be.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

2 stars.  Overall, it was okay.  It’s definitely not my thing, but a couple of things were interesting.  Definitely read the chapter about ebola and the Human Genome Project (and maybe the one about self-cannibals) but skip the rest of them.  I thought it would be a different book than the one I read.

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