Sunday, April 26, 2009

Book Review: Biohazard by Ken Alibek

By Crystal Zheng

When I first started reading Biohazard, I thought I had picked up a sci-fi novel and almost forgot that I was reading non-fiction. Easy and quick reading, the story is a narrative of Alibek’s work with the secret Soviet bio-weapons program. Written for the un-technical reader, Alibek provides friendly explanations of immunology and virology suitable to the layman.
The most redeeming part of the book is the perspective it gives the reader to make more informed assessments of the current security climate and our nation’s ability to respond to potential threats. The most chilling part is that these threats could still exist in unknown hands; whereas the enemy of Alibek’s time was the single Soviet Union, today’s enemies are non-traditional and numerous rogue states and terrorist groups.
If you’re looking for just the facts, prepare to read through a good deal of personal memoir material. The main complaint I have about this book is that it tends to drag on and give too many details. The author could easily have gotten his point across in a 150 pages, but instead takes over 300 pages. The main points tend to become bogged down by personal details. It’s difficult to separate credibility from sensationalism. For example, the first page describes a scene of viral particles descending upon an island of African monkeys. Do not choose this book if your criteria is literary merit.
Overall, the book brings up some very interesting and little-known events. I just wish that an abridged version could come out soon. Unless you’re very interested in this man’s personal life, a Wikipedia article may suffice.

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