Published January 2021

Written by: Emma Elsbecker 

Over Christmas break, science teacher Mr. Young assigned a non-fiction novel to his advanced biology class. Written by Richard Preston, The Hot Zone became a member of the  #1 New York Times Bestseller List upon release in 1994. Mr. Young decided that The Hot Zone was especially relatable this year considering the circumstances today and our world’s constant battle with Covid-19. 

The novel mainly takes place in the 1980s. Readers travel back and forth between Africa and Virginia, USA. From start to finish, Richard Preston, the author, passionately describes the gruesome details and deaths that led to the discovery of lethal viruses such as Marburg and more intensely, Ebola.  

 Advanced biology teacher, Mr. Young, has had the pleasure of meeting two of the main characters, Nancy and Jerry Jaxx, at science conventions in Des Moines, Iowa, and Florida. The Jaxxes are a married couple who met in veterinary school. 

In the novel, the couple spends their time working for the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), which resulted in their involvement in the highly critical mission to contain the Ebola Virus within the boundaries of the Reston Virginia Monkey House. 

Jasmyne Harrison, a senior at AHS and a member of Mr. Young’s class, shared her opinion on The Hot Zone. Harrison says she “really enjoyed the book, especially because it was so relevant to our world today.” 

Although most science classes at Algona High School don’t consist of reading novels, the book is a huge necessity in explaining and visualizing the study of viruses, also known as virology. Virology is an essential chapter for the advanced biology curriculum, and this book does a perfect job of educating readers and students about viruses and their counterparts. 

If you’re passionate about reading or science, or simply interested in compelling novels, The Hot Zone by Richard Preston is the perfect “next read” for you!