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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.

Critic Reviews

"[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 Ratings

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Too much about vampires, werewolves, and zombies

Would you try another book from Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy and/or Johnny Heller?

No, probably not. It was too much of a stretch to include so much discussion of vampires, werewolves, and zombies as part of the "cultural history" of rabies. I enjoyed the part of the book that was actually about rabies but just got really tired of the rest of it.

Has Rabid turned you off from other books in this genre?

It wouldn't turn me off to books about research and history of science at all. But I would look for authors that didn't include witchcraft and monsters.

What three words best describe Johnny Heller’s performance?

Fine; fake accents.

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

Interest in the core premise; boredom with tangents.

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Detailed, interesting

As a public health professional, I enjoyed and appreciated hearing this book. The level of detail might be a bit too much for a general reader.

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It's not a thriller but it is interesting

I'm not sure what I expected but it wasn't the way this book started out. I had a hard time staying with this book but I continued to listen. The pace eventually picked up and then I felt like I couldn't stop listening. It offers some really interesting aspects of the disease that a layman wouldn't know about unless they had firsthand knowledge. Definitely worth listening too.

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  • Teri
  • GILLETTE, WY, United States
  • 09-16-16

A look at literary and cultural history

What an interesting book. The authors take us on a trip through history by examining the origins of rabies and its impact on early societies. Then they present a interesting perspective how the disease has effected our imagination throughout our literary history through to current pop culture. Followed by a selection of stories which lend to the search for a cure to the diease. To wrap up the fascinating curtural and historical implications of the disease; they give a brief but informative history of the search for a cure and its impact on current and potentially the future of medicine.

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Easy listening, lots of trivia

I listened to this while on a road trip and it was perfect for the purpose. The writing was engaging, with a conversational tone that made the mishmash of history, anecdotes, and tangents interesting instead of frustrating. It felt like listening to an amusing and garrulous uncle. I picked up some trivia and enjoyed the book, but I can't say this will be one I'll be listening to again.
Garrulous uncles will love this book. Plenty of stories to retell at family gatherings.
Go ahead and judge this book by it's cover. Happy listening!

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good information/ spends to much time on scifi

interesting book but spent to much time linking rabies to cryptozoological creatures ie vampires/ zombies

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A Most Fearsome Affliction

This description of the devastation wrought by the rabies virus traces the method of transmission from victim to victim and examines the pathology of destruction throughout the body of the host. We see that it has been with us from earliest days.
Historically, the horrifying symptoms of the condition were often the first indication that the victim had been infected, sometimes many months after first exposure to the virus.
Even today, the rabies virus remains a killer. Once it has gained a foothold in the nervous system of the victim, there is no cure. There have been rare cases where intensive medical treatment throughout the course of the infection has saved the life of the patient, but serious complications endure long after the threat of death has passed. Only pre-emptive vaccination, or immediate post-exposure treatment can stop the relentless invasion and destruction of the central nervous system.
With thanks to Louis Pasteur.

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Not at all what I expected, and pretty boring

I love books on scientific and medical topics, and I have read a lot of them recently...this book was unfortunately the worst of the bunch. The entire first half went into way too much detail on the ancient history of rabies, and by that I mean it literally mentioned everything to do with a dog, people getting sick and ridiculous things like vampires. Not at all a scientific account of the virus. Very disappointed in this book!

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Fascinating and informative

Very engaging discussion of an ancient foe. Neither dry nor boring - instead it pulls the listener into the saga with personal anecdotes and case studies. Recommend for anyone who likes to learn while being entertained.

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Cleverly written, but the narrator seems to miss the jokes.

Some wry lines are read so flatly that the humor is lost. I'd rather read the paper edition than listen to Heller again.