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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 (689 )
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  •  
    Dr. J Rockville, MD United States 12-03-13
    Dr. J Rockville, MD United States 12-03-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Sheri San Francisco, CA, United States 11-22-13
    Sheri San Francisco, CA, United States 11-22-13 Member Since 2011
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    "More an excuse to write about vampires and zombies"
    What was most disappointing about Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy ’s story?

    This was spun as a book looking at the history of rabies in the human story, but it really weaves together rabies, origins of zombie and vampire stories, immunology, and a little zoophilia thrown in. The story was convoluted; the authors leaped from time to time (1700s one moment, 2000s the next) and the content was very poorly organized. Had the story focused on the science and history (and stayed away from the ridiculous zombie/vampire stories that kept being interwoven), it wouldn't have been half bad. If you want a good history about disease/science and history try the Demon Under the Microscope or the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Smail Summerville, SC United States 10-20-13
    S. Smail Summerville, SC United States 10-20-13 Member Since 2013

    A 33 year old with a painfully short attention span. Audible brought me back to reading."

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    "Horrifying and fascinating"
    Would you listen to Rabid again? Why?

    I already have. It's a scientific story without being sluggish or confusing. It's more than just a book about rabies, it's a series of stories.


    Any additional comments?

    Rabies is one of those things that I've heard about all my life but I never really learned about it. The extent of my knowledge was that it was fatal and it made animals aggressive and foamy. I had no idea how completely terrifying it is, and what a serious issue it is. I can assure you that I am 100% positive that my cats are all up to date on their rabies shots now.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    André ORLANDO, FL, United States 10-11-13
    André ORLANDO, FL, United States 10-11-13 Member Since 2011

    I love AUDIBLE! I never get mad at traffic jams and can listen to many different books, despite of my short time.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A good topic, but it lacks cohesion"

    I love historical books, specially those who talks about medicine and diseases. But this book could have been more specific. The authors talk about dogs, vampires, zombies, aids and forget that rabid should be the main point, the glue that holds the story in place. When they tell the story of Pasteur the book amazes, but when they divagate, the book sinks.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Agrippina Frogbottom Cardholder Services 10-10-13
    Agrippina Frogbottom Cardholder Services 10-10-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Interesting and frightening"

    Rabid is an interesting exploration of a once-horrifying disease that inhabitants of first-world countries, particularly city dwellers, may erroneously think is nothing but a historical footnote. The book dispels some of the myths (modern rabies treatment doesn't require dozens of injections into the patient's stomach), while leaving the reader -- or this reader, at least -- with a healthy fear of the disease. (If untreated, rabies is still essentially 100% fatal, and it's not a pretty way to go.) I have some criticisms of the book -- for example, I don't think the discussion of zombies in popular culture has much to do with rabies -- but I would still recommend it. Even more strongly, I would recommend being extremely cautious in the presence of raccoons and bats, particularly if they're acting weirdly.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel YAKIMA, WA, United States 09-15-13
    Rachel YAKIMA, WA, United States 09-15-13 Member Since 2013

    I am a clay sculptor and an art instructor at a community college. I mostly listen to audiobooks while I work in my home studio.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "um, now I'm scared."

    I think a bat flew into my room the other night while I was sleeping and bit me. This book is disturbing my dreams. Read at your own risk!

    No, really, the book is good and very interesting, though I might recommend you take breaks from this book to read about rainbows and sunshine and cute babies. It is dark and sometimes ghastly. (Which you could probably figure out based on the title and topic.)

    The book was well written and researched. The topic is unavoidably intriguing and the history well-handled. I liked the organization of the book and I appreciate that the author included a few (relatively) uplifting pieces of information about more recent advances in treatment, like the Milwaukee protocol. I asked my husband to remember the Milwaukee protocol in case my dream about the bat flying in my room was actually true.

    This book has a good combination of history, science and folklore--or, more precisely, how folklore was affected (or might have been) by real incidents of rabies.

    I recommend the book to folks who are interested. I give 5 stars for the performance and book, but demote an overall star because the book isn't exactly pleasant. I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 07-26-13
    David 07-26-13 Member Since 2015

    Holocaust Scholar

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    "Unlikely Topic"

    I knew next to nothing about Rabies, I bought the title because I was curious and found I was unable to put it down.. Excellent work on an interesting subject

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine 07-25-13
    Catherine 07-25-13
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    "Where's a Good Editor When You Need One?"

    This is a fascinating topic, but the book was sometimes so dull I feared I would never finish it. As a science nerd, the development of the vaccine was the most interesting part of the book for me, and I really loved learning about Louis Pasteur and the other researchers of the 19th century. The strength of the book is how they made so many of those historical characters come alive with stories about them and their competitors or families, etc. I enjoyed learning about how the illness was understood throughout history and the crazy, revolting treatments that different societies developed to attempt to forestall the inevitable fatal outcome of a bite from a rabid animal. That being said, I felt the writing style was too wordy with too much repetition of facts and stories, which made it very slow going, even dull at times. If there is an abridged version, that would probably be the way to go--with any luck a good editor could maintain the details in the lively sections and tie everything together more efficiently.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna grants pass, OR, USA 04-23-13
    Donna grants pass, OR, USA 04-23-13 Member Since 2004
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    "Don't bother"
    What would have made Rabid better?

    Written a short article on the subject.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Johnny Heller’s performances?

    Yes. Good job with a terrible book.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment.


    Any additional comments?

    This book could have been written in three chapters. History of rabies was so boring I skipped over chapters. The information on Pasteur and his discovery of the rabies vaccine was interesting but If you want to read a book about rabies it would make more sense to spend a credit on a book about Louis Pasteur.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    dboone 03-06-15
    dboone 03-06-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Fascinating listen"

    Although it had me writhing in my seat at times, I really enjoyed the detailed stories and scientific knowledge packed in this book. I suggest anyone who is strong of stomach take a listen to this book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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