The Ghost Map is a fascinating account of the appalling conditions of mid-nineteenth century London and of an early exercise in medical detective work. The initial chapters are not for the squeamish, and are a poor choice for listening while eating lunch. They concern, in a word, feces -- of various species (sorry, I couldn't resist the rhyme) although chiefly human.
I think the beginning of the book was intended to give modern readers a healthy shock. (Fans of steampunk, for example, might do well to be reminded that the nineteenth century was not only the Age of Brass and Steam, but also of Filth and Stink -- or not, because steampunk is fantasy anyway. But I digress.) Johnson has interesting insights on how modernization and urbanization fostered disease. I'm not particularly a student of this era, so it was informative to me.
The later chapters of the book are less nauseating than the beginning, although the book is, from beginning to end, about a disease of the digestive tract. (See previous caution about listening and lunch.)
After finishing the book, I find that I have very little to say about the reader, which I think is a good thing. The reader enabled me to enjoy the book without getting in the way. This isn't perhaps the sort of glowing accolade that the reader would want to print out and tape onto his refrigerator or mail to his mother, but I consider it a compliment.
I do not always want perfect radio voices reading to me, but this one took some time to get used to. The narrator has a very unique voice, and I'm not sure why they picked him. He does a good job, just in an extreme baritone with a dramatic murder-mystery show type promo voice. It doesn't sound real. I love this author, he hops about and makes great connections. His writing reminds me of a fun show I used to watch on TV called "Connections" actually. That breaks up the story and takes you on wonderful asides. Its been a bit, but I remember loving the story of Doctor Snow and the discovery here of waterborn illnesses is fascinating, and learning how it led to new city planning and other innovations. This is my least favorite by this author, however. Which is not exactly a compliment, but not a slight either. He just writes great books. It might rate higher if not for the intensity of the vocals.
Biology, history and sociology....cartography and epidemiology, too.
The Hot Zone, a real mystery that involved you like a mystery novel.
No, yoko much factual information to grasp without pondering.
Don't listen to this in a public place, like the train station, or people will think you crazy -- since this narrative will drive you to shout "Holy COW!" and "Oh my GOD, are you KIDDING me?!" repeatedly. Don't listen to it during lunch, unless you have a seriously strong stomach.
If you enjoyed the likes of Guns, Germs, and Steel, you will probably love The Ghost Map. It's shorter, quite a bit lighter, but is absolutely packed with jaw dropping details about Victorian London. If you enjoy Arthur Conan Doyle, you will likely love The Ghost Map, which reads like a Sherlock Holmes mystery in which Dr. Watson does the sleuthing while Holmes is on holiday.
Johnson does a fantastic job of weaving a trainload of London history, sociology, and medical history into a narrative that feels more like a novel.
The only criticism I have is that the last section feels a little soap-boxy, but it's a minor fault -- the sociological issues are sufficiently intriguing.
as an engineer i like data. i thoroughly enjoyed the transition from anecdotal story into the presentation of data to prove the root cause of Cholera and how to prevent further transmission.
As usual, Alan Sklar is up to the task of reading a scientifically intriguing text. His tone keeps you engaged as he seems to be on the edge of his seat as you are.
This was very interesting, although at time it did tend to drag a bit. Despite that, the narration was good, and the topic and story kept the book moving along. Perfect length, I wouldn't have lasted too many hours more.
Truly a fascinating look at one of the unsung heroes of city development and management - wastewater removal and treatment. One small slip and we're all at risk to water-borne diseases such as cholera. I also appreciated the solid look at overcoming scientific hysteria to find fact. I doubt that the author meant to be quite so ironic when he listed his support at the end of the text for several current issues that may themselves turn out to be just as hysterical as miasma was in the 19th century.
A solid story with excellent character development, a good mystery, and plenty of every day relevance. I just wish I had stopped before listening to the socialist screed in the appendix, but I suppose that was probably Johnson's motivation for writing the book.
At the end I felt like shouting, "I believe." like I was at a revival camp meeting. The story of Snow was interesting but just the platform for the author's preaching. I finished it but it was touch and go.