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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 (598 )
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  •  
    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
  •  
    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
  •  
    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
  •  
    Matthew Hinchey STORRS MANSFIELD, CT, US 12-02-13
    Matthew Hinchey STORRS MANSFIELD, CT, US 12-02-13 Member Since 2013
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    "All you need to know about rabies!"
    What did you love best about Rabid?

    Interesting book about the history of rabies and how it has played a role in society over the years. Was well read and story kept you interested even when the topic could otherwise be seen as dry.




    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel D Offenberg 09-23-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Interesting (mostly) but audio cleanup needed"

    In general, an interesting look at the history of rabies in human history. A bit gross in places, but this does address a real medical issue and it does get a bit anatomical out of necessity. Although the narrative was interesting and well done, it is rather dry and academic in tone (not a bad thing). I did find that some of the semi-off-topic excursions got a bit long but in general the story was well done.

    The narration was OK. I'm always glad with medical/technical audiobooks when the narrator actually pronounces the jargon properly, and that was done here.

    However, there is some pretty cruddy editing. The audio goes snap, crackle and pop every so often...as if the audiobook was transcribed from a well-loved LP in need of cleaning. It would be really good if someone could spend the time to eliminate, or at least reduce, the pops and snaps.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Holly JACKSONVILLE, FL, United States 07-30-13
    Holly JACKSONVILLE, FL, United States 07-30-13 Member Since 2013
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    "I could barely get through this"
    What disappointed you about Rabid?

    The story went in all these bizarre tangents. It was like listening to Grandma Simpson tell a story. Highly aggravating. Also, the narrator had this game show host delivery that drove me insane.


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

    The book wasn't about Rabies. It took Rabies as acentral theme and then just kind of went off in 100 different directions.


    What didn’t you like about Johnny Heller’s performance?

    He sounded like a exagerrated game show host or news anchor.


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

    I learned a few facts.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeremy BELLEVUE, NE, United States 01-28-13
    Jeremy BELLEVUE, NE, United States 01-28-13
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    "New perspective on an archaic disease."

    Overall, a good read. I hadn't given rabies a lot of thought, like most people I would assume. It was still around occasionally. I think I remembered seeing new paper articles about the NYC breakout with mild interest, and I remember seeing Old Yeller from my childhood.

    (The author, of course, talks about this movie including the changes that Disney was trying to make.)

    Paints a vivid picture about the legends surrounding the disease, it's effects on culture and art and the scientific breakthroughs that helped us harness, but still not completely control this deadly disease.

    I was especially fascinated by the modern cases and the fact that, until just recently, late stages of this virus still carried a 100% death rate.

    My one critique was that it focuses a lot on animal-born pathogens in general. Clearly that is something worth taking about in a book about the most infamous disease carried by animals, but after a while I found the authors repeating the same information and veering off topic slightly.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Anderson, IN, United States 12-24-12
    Michael Anderson, IN, United States 12-24-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Interesting history of a deadly disease"
    Would you listen to Rabid again? Why?

    No. I don't listen to books again. Too many other good books are waiting to be read.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Rabid?

    The historical ways others treated rabies,


    What aspect of Johnny Heller’s performance would you have changed?

    Nothing. He did well.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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