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)
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.
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.
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.
SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!
"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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
34. Married. Cats. Lizards. Disney. Ghostbusters. TMNT. Rifftrax. 20,000 Leagues. Nail polish. Fibro sufferer. Likes bees. A lot.
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.
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.
I love AUDIBLE! I never get mad at traffic jams and can listen to many different books, despite of my short time.
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.
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.
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