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Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus | [Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy]

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

The most fatal virus known to science, rabies kills nearly 100 percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh, fascinating, and often wildly entertaining look at one of mankind’s oldest and most fearsome foes.
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Publisher's Summary

A maddened creature, frothing at the mouth, lunges at an innocent victim—and with a bite, transforms its prey into another raving monster. It’s a scenario that underlies our darkest tales of supernatural horror, but its power derives from a very real virus, a deadly scourge known to mankind from our earliest days. In this fascinating exploration, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart four thousand years in the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies.

The most fatal virus known to science, rabies kills nearly 100 percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. A disease that spreads avidly from animals to humans, rabies has served as a symbol of savage madness and inhuman possession throughout history. Today, its history can help shed light on the wave of emerging diseases—from AIDS to SARS to avian flu—with origins in animal populations.

From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh, fascinating, and often wildly entertaining look at one of mankind’s oldest and most fearsome foes.

Bill Wasik is a senior editor at Wired magazine and was previously a senior editor at Harper’s, where he wrote on culture, media, and politics. He is the editor of the anthology Submersion Journalism and has also written for Oxford American, Slate, Salon, and McSweeney’s.

©2012 Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"[An] ambitious and smart history of the virus…. The authors track how science tried to tame the scourge, with its ravaging neurological effects. Yet the rare tales of modern survivors only underscore that, despite the existence of treatment through a series of injections, we're at a stalemate in conquering rabies." (Publishers Weekly)

"[Wasik and Murphy] place the world's deadliest virus in its historical and cultural context with a scientifically sound and compelling history that begins in ancient Mesopotamia and ends in twenty-first-century Bali…Readable, fascinating, informative, and occasionally gruesome, this is highly recommended for anyone interested in medical history or the cultural history of disease." (Library Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (651 )
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3.9 (580 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Jim in Omaha 03-19-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Awesome book."

    Was a little disjointed in telling but a very good book. They cover so many stories and facts that it would be tough to have it be more organized. I learned so much and it was a great listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leo 12-24-14
    Leo 12-24-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Not what I was looking for"
    What disappointed you about Rabid?

    Too much literary and historical analysis on myth and disease in general. Connections drawn between rabies, werewolves and vampires very thin considering later explanations in the same book about a lack of understanding of the disease. I enjoyed the sections about Louis Pasteur and the science behind the growing understanding of bacteria and viruses. I would have preferred to read a book focusing more on Pasteur, science and modern cures and treatment.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    It was well narrated.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan Burlington, KY, United States 07-29-14
    Dan Burlington, KY, United States 07-29-14 Member Since 2015

    I'm an avid audiobook listener since 2007. I prefer non-fiction but I also branch out to fiction from time to time.

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    "Such a cool little bit of history on this disease"
    If you could sum up Rabid in three words, what would they be?

    Don't Get Bitten!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Rabid?

    The story of the girl who beat the disease


    What does Johnny Heller bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I'm not really sure but the narrator was perfectly good.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    Just such a neat history of the disease.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Round Rock, TX, United States 10-29-13
    Christopher Round Rock, TX, United States 10-29-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A horrid lack of direction"
    What disappointed you about Rabid?

    The book is very predictable. It goes between bashing dogs, to how some horror story might have been rabies, then back to dogs, then on to some author who might have been influenced by rabies, and so on. There are a few rare moments where some useful information is given but they are far and few. You will probably lean more about rabies from Wikipedia than this book. --In short this is best described as a bad PHd thesis, which might have been ok if it were entertaining.

    From a performance perspective, the reader drones on.


    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan 06-10-13
    Jan 06-10-13 Member Since 2011

    Tangential, eclectic, avid listener... favorite book is the one currently in ear.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Literature majors will enjoy all of it..."

    For me about half of the book was enjoyable... the parts here and there that actually dealt with rabies were wonderful. However, the extensive "Cultural History" portions where even the vaguest possibility of literature being associated to rabies was explored drove me nuts... and be warned the literature review will cover from medieval times to modern Zombie movies. Wish they weren't so intermingled, but one is forced to listen to all to hear the good parts.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J 01-22-13
    J 01-22-13 Member Since 2014

    I love Audible!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Narration too theatrical and sensationalized"
    What did you like best about Rabid? What did you like least?

    Interesting topic... more about the human-animal relationship in myth, culture and disease. However, this was somewhat hampered by the narration, which was too theatrical and sensationalized. It sounded like the narration of a somewhat cheesy mystery novel.


    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Pasadena 07-24-12
    Amazon Customer Pasadena 07-24-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Simon Winchester phage"
    Any additional comments?

    I am reminded of Simon Winchester. It is like an assembly of the foot notes that populate the Winchester books. That is a matter of personal taste. If you read and enjoyed those dense footnotes, you will love this.

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 02-23-14
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 02-23-14 Member Since 2009

    Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit

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    "This one's a dog..."

    I was looking forward to learning all about the fascinating history of rabies and it's effect on man and beast throughout history. The book contains tons of factual and anecdotal information (some of it gruesome which is right up my alley) - it should've been a hit for me but I didn't enjoy it so I can't bring myself to give it more than 2 stars. It's not the authors' fault; the narrator's vocal tone made it hard for me to concentrate on the story and I found myself trying to get through it in small bites to avoid the irritation. It may just be a personal thing with me - so listen to the free sample and if the narration doesn't bother you after a few minutes then go for it - the content is fine.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 04-08-14
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 04-08-14 Member Since 2015

    SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!

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    "Goes Off On Tangents, But Fun"

    "Rabid" starts off with a bang. There are scintillating tidbits of information, swift pacing, and even an instance of rabies being in one of the first jokes, told thousands of years ago (And the reader says, "Stop me if you've heard this one." He follows up with, "It's funnier in the original language." Hilarious!) There's quite a number of anecdotes, plenty of great stories about Louis Pasteur and how his group struggled to get saliva from animals in active states of rabies, just some wonderful stuff.
    But it starts to struggle during the middle, and I was downright bored at one point. That point would be when the authors go off on a huge, and practically ridiculous tangent about vampires. I mean, really? Okay, I kind of get it: vampire bats, the belief that people bitten turned into creatures entirely unlike themselves, etc. But it is a stretch and a half, and it's downright annoying when the Twilight series is brought up. Oh, how "groovy."
    What makes this book so enjoyable, however, once you get past that chapter, is Heller's spectacular narration. He adds so much to the reading: humor, breathlessness, passion, and about every other delightful emotion one could think of that would make this a great and engaging listen.
    Not quite four-stars, but with the narration, very close. I'm glad I got it. Just hearing that Emily Bronte was bitten by a rabid dog and brought a red hot poker to cauterize her own flesh was worth the time spent, as there's plenty more in the book where that came from.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. J Rockville, MD United States 12-03-13
    Dr. J Rockville, MD United States 12-03-13
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    "Sensationalized Science"
    What disappointed you about Rabid?

    Instead of a serious treatment of a medically important and scientifically historic disease, this book reads more like a werewolf story. For example, there is a detailed description of the surgical decapitation of a dog (to obtain brain tissue test for the virus) that adds nothing but gore to the story. And the hydrophobia stories read like something from the "Exorcist." If you're looking for a horror book, you'll like it. But if you're looking for a serious nonfiction treatment of a very important virus, keep looking.


    What could Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    They should have stuck to the historical narrative without the sensationalized interludes. It's as though they didn't believe that the history of the science alone was enough to captivate the reader. They were wrong.


    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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