There is a family of disorders that eat away the brains of their victims, whether they are humans or livestock. I know, sounds depressing, but the search for the cause of these disorders is utterly fascinating. There are enough personal stories to make it feel a bit like a novel at times, but it is actually a true scientific detective story. There are brilliant and odd scientists, conflicted and disorganized governments, and some deeply sad and touching personal stories. There are also enough ironic and even humorous moments to keep things from ever feeling too heavy. I particularly liked hearing that a researcher had for years kept a flock of infected sheep on the roof of a London hospital. I've been passionate about reading up on these prion diseases for years, and I still found lots in this book that was new to me. I've shared this book with people who were unfamiliar with prions, and they have found it captivating and easy to understand.
Okay, historical fiction is not usually intended to be entirely accurate, and Doctor Who is always to be enjoyed for its humor and adventure. Still, for a story that is clearly trying to be about cultural understanding, there is a problem. I just can't get past the repeated references to the Muslims drinking wine! This is just too wrong for me. Yes, there are some interesting characters and some fun scenes, and the narration is quite well done. I just cannot get past the one major cultural gaff of Saladin and his men serving wine.
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