The Hot Zone

The Hot Zone


Richard Preston

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Themes and Colors
The Power of Nature Theme Icon
Human Error and Fragility Theme Icon
Globalization Theme Icon
Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris Theme Icon
Bravery and Teamwork Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Hot Zone, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Power of Nature

The power of nature is an ever-present theme throughout The Hot Zone. Ebola represents this power at its purest and most destructive—no matter how much human technology evolves, and no matter how much humans attempt to protect themselves, Ebola always finds a path for infection. In fact, Ebola even uses human innovation—in the form of faster and better modes of travel, like highways and planes—to spread faster and farther than ever before. An ancient…

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Human Error and Fragility

With in-depth research and excruciating detail, Preston makes clear that the spread of viruses like Ebola and HIV is often due to human error. Whether eating contaminated animal meat, spreading infections through sexual intercourse, building highways that become pathways for epidemics, or sticking themselves with infected needles, humans are constantly exposing themselves to devastating and destructive diseases. By focusing on the Ebola outbreak in Reston, Virginia—a peaceful and quiet suburban neighborhood—Preston makes clear how fragile…

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Throughout The Hot Zone, Richard Preston emphasizes how globalization has made worldwide pandemics a real and present danger for the human race. When Charles Monet falls ill at the beginning of the book, he boards an airplane, an act that could easily have spread Ebola throughout the world. Although Mayinga N. knows that she is sick, she still travels all around a populated and crowded city, another instance in which a pandemic could have…

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Innovation and Curiosity vs. Hubris

In The Hot Zone, Richard Preston chronicles the incredible medical and technological advances of the 20th and 21st centuries. Yet he also makes clear that human curiosity and advancement can go too far, and can in fact end up aiding destructive diseases such as Ebola. While human innovation is useful and life-saving, human hubris—excessive self-confidence, in this case involving innovation and curiosity—can be destructive and deadly. The Reston Primate Quarantine Unit provides a perfect…

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Bravery and Teamwork

Although much of The Hot Zone is pessimistic and even terrifying, one of its few bright spots is the consistent bravery and teamwork shown by researchers of Ebola, especially the army scientists and soldiers at USAMRIID. Nancy Jaax and her husband Jerry Jaax are prime examples, putting their lives at risk and sacrificing other aspects of their lives in order to ensure that others are safe from a potential Ebola outbreak. Jerry’s team of soldiers…

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