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.
"[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)
I listened to this while on a road trip and it was perfect for the purpose. The writing was engaging, with a conversational tone that made the mishmash of history, anecdotes, and tangents interesting instead of frustrating. It felt like listening to an amusing and garrulous uncle. I picked up some trivia and enjoyed the book, but I can't say this will be one I'll be listening to again.
Garrulous uncles will love this book. Plenty of stories to retell at family gatherings.
Go ahead and judge this book by it's cover. Happy listening!
This description of the devastation wrought by the rabies virus traces the method of transmission from victim to victim and examines the pathology of destruction throughout the body of the host. We see that it has been with us from earliest days.
Historically, the horrifying symptoms of the condition were often the first indication that the victim had been infected, sometimes many months after first exposure to the virus.
Even today, the rabies virus remains a killer. Once it has gained a foothold in the nervous system of the victim, there is no cure. There have been rare cases where intensive medical treatment throughout the course of the infection has saved the life of the patient, but serious complications endure long after the threat of death has passed. Only pre-emptive vaccination, or immediate post-exposure treatment can stop the relentless invasion and destruction of the central nervous system.
With thanks to Louis Pasteur.
I love books on scientific and medical topics, and I have read a lot of them recently...this book was unfortunately the worst of the bunch. The entire first half went into way too much detail on the ancient history of rabies, and by that I mean it literally mentioned everything to do with a dog, people getting sick and ridiculous things like vampires. Not at all a scientific account of the virus. Very disappointed in this book!
Interesting and educational, and not just about rabies. Louis Pasteur is now high on my short list of humanity's heroes!
The basic information about rabies is important for everyone to know. Not just for personal protection, but to help society make good decisions - both individually and as a community - about rabies prevention.
Having heard about rabies all my life, and watching it be severely curtailed from its prevalence during my childhood, I had no idea how truly terribly it is. All the uproar about the newer contagious diseases that the media rails about, only to learn from this book that almost none are nearly so threatening and dangerous to our populations as rabies.
The author's broader observations about society's often alarming and irrational reactions to what is a truly terrible disease are not essential, but they are definitely entertaining! And sometimes horrifying as well. Beware that what is heard cannot be unheard - have your ear-bleach at the ready!
Very engaging discussion of an ancient foe. Neither dry nor boring - instead it pulls the listener into the saga with personal anecdotes and case studies. Recommend for anyone who likes to learn while being entertained.
Some wry lines are read so flatly that the humor is lost. I'd rather read the paper edition than listen to Heller again.
I really enjoyed this book. Binged the entire thing in a few days. It brings in science, history, and culture nicely as it recites the history of rabies. It never feels dry, rushed, or moving slow, it is aware of the serious matter, but isn't dark or gloomy, but overall has a hopeful tone.
This is one of very few times that I found a book so boring that I did not complete it. The author seems to mention EVERY instance of a vicious dog or dog-like beast in history, and attributes the tale to the fear of rabies, but to me failed to provide the facts that would indicate this was truly the case. At any rate I found it tedious to read essentially the same anecdote repeatedly. The only redeeming portion of the book was the section on Pasteur. This was very compelling and I greatly enjoyed those chapters.
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