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Publisher's Summary

"What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that - the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my laptop?"

In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.

©2005 Mary Roach (P)2005 Brilliance Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Brad
  • orange, CA, USA
  • 07-31-08

good book, gave me more questions then answers

I thought this was an interesting read. She gives many examples of the possibility for our hope of an afterlife from the belivers point of view as well as from the skeptics. It is not really a book to convince you we do or don't go on after death but gives some compelling examples to support this and also explanations for how they could be misinterpreted. I personally like the book and found the readers presentation to be enjoyable. I also found it to be a good book for provoking thought.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Ghosts with fake accents

Entertainingly written exploration of ghosts, ectoplasm, mediums, and other paranormal phenomena. Roach, a thorough skeptic about all these, has a droll style of writing, but reader Bernadette Quigley's attempt to emphasize the drollness is exceedingly annoying, with sudden hushes to whisper volume, portentous pauses and shifts in tone, arch intonations, and the very bad accents another reviewer has mentioned. The performance was almost bad enough for me to ditch the whole book, but I persevered.

44 of 46 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Read this book, but don't listen to it!

To preface this, let me say I have never written a review of anything before, but I feel compelled to do so now. I love Mary Roach's writing style and sense of humor! "Stiff," has been a favorite read, so I was thrilled to see other works by her available on Audible. Anxious for, what I thought would be an enjoyable experience, turned out to be torture. I am an easy-going person who normally can persevere until the end, but after the first two chapters, I couldn't take it any longer. The narrator ruined the experience - more eloquently described by previous reviewers - in such a horrendous way that I will waste this book credit. I will, however, download the book onto my Kindle and enjoy it, as I recommend you do, in the written form.

62 of 66 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • bd
  • 07-09-15

Better read than listened to

I like Mary Roach partly for her skepticism, it's true. But while I don't want to be hurtful to the performer, I had a hard time listening to the snide, snarky tone that sounded like the schoolyard bullying that I hear in the hallways of the middle school where I work. It undermined the value of the book.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Derek
  • Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 04-01-10

Great book...Meh narration

An examination of life after death as only Mary Roach can provide. Funny, insightful and entertaining. My only complaint is the Narrator's insistence on attempting the accents of the various people Roach quotes. Not only were they poorly rendered, to the point of caracature, but distracting and unecessary.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

I gave-up after three hours...

What disappointed you about Spook?

The book is mildly interesting, but the narrator ruined it for me. When she is reading in her natural voice, she reads well. But when she tries to inject an accent, or (worse yet) tries to sound as if she is a scientific professional, it’s so over-the-top, it ruins the book.

What was most disappointing about Mary Roach’s story?

Very little current information... this book dwells on 19th century experiments.

Would you be willing to try another one of Bernadette Quigley’s performances?


17 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Will have to read this as a hard copy

I really enjoyed Mary Roach's other books and seeing that I don't think I'm hard to please, I shrugged off the other comments about the narrator.
I was able to make through all of one hour before being utterly disgusted.

Ms. Quigley, please refrain from offering your services as a narrator anymore. Thanks!

Audible, could I have my money back? *aintgonnahappen*

Amazon, could you send me a hard copy of the book? *ka-ching!*

24 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

What a Tough Crowd!

Jeez! I avoided this book for years, frightened away by the moans and groans over Bernadette Quigley's reading. Yes, it is a bit odd. But it's not bad. Indeed, it's rather sweet. And heck, her accents are no worse than mine. Indeed, they're better. All my accents sound the same. And anyway, Mary Roach is always -- always! -- worthwhile. The woman is a national treasure. I can't wait to see what's next...

27 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Could've done with a different narrator

If you could sum up Spook in three words, what would they be?


Would you ever listen to anything by Mary Roach again?

I'm not to sure if I'd purchase an audible or hard copy of any of Mary Roach's books again. I still haven't decided if it was the narrator I didn't enjoy or the actual content.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Bernadette Quigley?

I have no idea who I would've cast as a narrator, but it sure as hell wouldn't have been Bernadette Quigley. I COULD NOT stand the snotty way she interpreted Mary Roach's opinions. Nor could I stand the way she felt the need to use an accent for every person that is quoted in the book. Specifically, the Middle Eastern doctor in the chapter about reincarnation. Totally and absolutely obnoxious.

If you could give Spook a new subtitle, what would it be?

Spook: When a close-minded skeptic continues being a close-minded skeptic

Any additional comments?

I only finished this audio book because I paid for it. Otherwise, it wouldn't been deleted after chapter two. The only things I actually enjoyed were learning about some of the scientific/medical aspects of the search for the afterlife.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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  • R.
  • New Haven, CT, United States
  • 11-12-11

mistakes were made.

Let me start off by saying that I absolutely loved Mary Roach's 3 other books available on Audible. She has a real talent for using narratives of her personal experiences to bring scientific and historical topics to life. I guess that's what I'd consider the first mistake that lead to the existence of this audiobook: the majority of "Spook" is simply not science (no matter what the psychics and ghost-hunters believe) and Roach's skepticism is never challenged in any interesting ways. In this case, the lens of her personal experience serves to deaden (sorry) the topics explored, because the fact that it's all garbage is a foregone conclusion, so why bother suffering through it with her? Certain sections (I'm looking at you, ectoplasm) are far too long already, and the author's attitude makes them even more tedious.

The second travesty here is the narration. When portraying everyone other than the author's voice, the narrator sounds like... like my drunken uncle doing impressions of family members after Christmas dinner, but with even more petty meanness. In a book where the author is already too dismissive of the subject matter to make it particularly interesting, the narrator does no favors by making every single person interviewed sound completely ridiculous. Ordinarily, the narrator's over-dramatic reading of Roach's delightfully deadpan writing style would be unfortunate on its own, but combined with all the other problems it makes this audiobook nearly valueless.

All in all, I wish I'd never downloaded this - although there is a moderate amount of interesting content - because the whole endeavor makes me think less of the author. I enjoyed her other books so much, it was almost like she was a friend - and now I've seen a side of her that I find a bit distasteful. She is very talented, but the message of the audiobook seems to boil down to "silly people believe silly things," and it doesn't strike me as a good use of anyone's time - either the listener's or the author's.

26 of 31 people found this review helpful