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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

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  •  
    Joel Columbia, MD, United States 09-23-13
    Joel Columbia, MD, United States 09-23-13 Member Since 2009
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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 Member Since 2010
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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
  •  
    JOSEPH Bonners Ferry, ID, United States 12-05-12
    JOSEPH Bonners Ferry, ID, United States 12-05-12 Member Since 2010

    Joseph Brown

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    "Rabid: A history of a still fatal disease"

    I bought this book because I retired a few years ago from a 25 year career in Animal Control.
    Our job was most often dealing with people but the 'mission' of the department was disease control and Rabies eradication in our County. In our area the animal with the highest 'positive' tests was the Bat and in being so ANY bat caught or found was tested.

    In other Counties it was, and probably still is, Skunks and in others Raccoons. I never saw a Rabid dog but we tested probably hundreds over the years on that suspicion. But rabid dogs were a problem down south as you get closer to the Mexican border.
    I was forever hearing about the "22 shots in the stomach" legend that most people seemed to still believe if the concern was of exposure.

    Before I retired the last pet to come back positive was a families cat that had caught and eaten a bat out in the desert and then ultimately began to act sick. They tested the cat itself and all the kittens too, only the mom cat was positive.
    I really enjoyed learning more about the history of a disease that was my job to know, but didn't really.
    So NEVER underestimate the bite or scratch you may get from that strange unknown animal, and NEVER attempt to catch an animal acting sick or abnormal, like a bat crawling on the ground or flying around in the daytime!

    I'm not sure of this books appeal to the general public, but if in a field, like animal control, or another Public Health field, it should be read or heard!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen Chesterton, IN, United States 06-19-13
    Ellen Chesterton, IN, United States 06-19-13 Member Since 2008

    I'm a bibliophile since early childhood. Love speculative fiction, odd premises, mystery novels that teach about different places and times.

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    "TMI overload"

    I'm always much interested in micro histories and minor science romps. Unfortunately this one is ugly. Not wrong. Not bad. Just very graphic and unappealing.
    I understand it's a gross/disgusting disease, but this went to a place where it was almost unlistenable. And it was heavily set in fearmongering. It's not just the text. It was like a 13 year old boy wanted to gross you out. And succeeded.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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