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)
interested in history, science, and pulp fiction
I have told many people about this fabulous book, and the response is always raised eyebrows, and a surprised grimace. "Rabies? Really?!" Yes, really! (You may also have grown up hearing about "a series of painful shots in the stomach," which was my parents' way of getting me to stop adopting neighborhood squirrels.)
This is among the best of books of its genre - it takes one purported focus, and spirals out to create an interdisciplinary gem. It begins in prehistory, goes from India to Europe to the US to Bali, and synthesizes cultural, historical, and scientific information. The case histories are painstakingly researched (scouring source material to find detailed 400 year-old anecdotes of children getting bitten by various animals, for example). The effect is a kind of sub-plot into cultural views on animals, wild and tame, pets and livestock more generally, and the domesticated dog in particular.
I was intrigued by the authors' research into literature, artwork, and cultural tropes like werewolves and vampires, ancient Egyptian sculpture, and Hollywood movies. The authors do not shy away from ideas and therapies that are still unsettled (like the "Milwaukee protocol," which is induced coma treatment). Rather, they thoroughly present several perspectives, so I felt I was brought up to date but not propagandized.
So much more than a single-subject book. Very capable narrator, as well.
Couldn't put this book down. The story was well-researched and the structure clear and easy to follow. They're right, this story is not for the queasy. ( and if you're tempted to look up the youtube videos mentioned, which of course I did, right away, resist the temptation). I learned a lot and will remember this book for a long time. Have already recommended it to lots of friends.
A great description of the importance of rabies in human history and culture, as it was the first infectious disease to have the mechanism of transmission understood. I had no idea that rabies had caused such a deep impression in human culture as described (sometimes to extensively, in my opinion). Overall a great book about disease, if you don't mind its specificity.
The authors provide a complete history of the rabies virus from the earliest recorded history right up to 2012. The information is well researched and the performance is very good.
The book is divided into chapters that each tackle a facet of the disease--history, virology, culture. They thoroughly cover all aspects of the disease without going too far astray on any one topic. This allows them to embelish certain stories and biographies but then return to the central theme of the book.
There is much to learn and the text does not get overly technical. The reader has a nice voice and keeps the narration moving along.
An easy listen which will engage anyone interested in infectious diseases or rabies in particular.
The audio version was sufficient to learning the books material though I've yet to check the e-book for illustrations.
The Violinst's Thumb
Using Rabies as a retrovirus that can cross the blood-brain barrier to cure disease was number to but the Milwaukee Protocol was definitely the best part!
No, but in as quick a time frame as possible.
Great book for my book club.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
Writer Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy tell the medical and cultural history of Rabies. It is told as if we are all sitting around having a conversation, a delightful way of telling a story. They cover from ancient myths of Greece, Rome and Egypt to the science of Louis Pasteur. They also cover the basic science of the disease. What I found the most interesting is how science today, is now using the "bullet" shape of the virus depleted of the rabies and now loaded with medication for treatment of other neurological infections to enable the medication to cross the blood/brain barrier. It is amazing they were able to pack so much information into the 8 hours. Found the story about the rabies out break in Central Park in NYC fascinating. Trapping and immunizing the raccoons to prevent the disease from spreading, that is hard work. The authors told both the veterinary and human medical history of the disease. The need to enforce rabies immunization and controlling out breaks is vital to our urbanized world. Johnny Heller did a great job narrating the story. If you are interested in science history or culture you will enjoy this book.
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.
Written a short article on the subject.
Yes. Good job with a terrible book.
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.
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.
I love Audible!
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.
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