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Rabid: A Cultural History of the…
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Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy

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198None59,218 (3.63)24
Member:veevoxvoom
Title:Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus
Authors:Bill Wasik
Other authors:Monica Murphy
Info:Viking Adult (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:non-fiction, history, she blinded me with science but one day i will retaliate

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Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik (2012)

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» See also 24 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Rabies is an oft-overlooked virus in the western world. Though it has haunted generations of people in movies such as Old Yellar and Cujo, it has become a mythical monster of a sort, something that frightens us in fiction but doesn't actually exist in the real world. This, of course, is a great misconception. Rabies still kills thousands of people every year, and even today it has nearly a 100 percent kill rate. Though a person can be vaccinated shortly after bitten by a rabid animal, even modern science can't save someone once symptoms have set in. To date only a scant few have managed to survive the virus, many of which have suffered debilitating neural damage. It's a pretty scary disease, and it's still commonly found in bats.

Rabid is well-written for the most part, but I have one major issue with it. The authors have a seriously bad habit of spoiling the stories of popular books in their writing. I am usually put off when an author does it once, but this is just ridiculous! I like the book, but the sheer number of spoilers might make me hesitate recommending it to others. It's like going out on a blind date, meeting someone you immediately find attractive, and then halfway through dinner service you embarrassingly discover they suffer from chronic flatulence. That's not to say I won't read more books by them in the future, but I hope they see a doctor about their flatulence soon.

Otherwise it's a fantastic book, really. ( )
1 vote Ape | Feb 17, 2014 |
This review relates to the audiobook version.

An extremely wide-ranging book that looks at rabies in medicine and popular culture, tracing literary depictions and medical descriptions since the ancients. Along the way, Bill Wasik examines vampire and werewolf stories, wondering if rabies could provide a source for these tales; the relationships between humans and dogs, which were most often the real or suspected source of rabies; zoonotic (i.e., human illnesses with origins in animals) diseases from bubonic plague to influenza to AIDS to hemorrhagic fever; Louis Pasteur's professional career and his role in developing a rabies vaccine; and efforts throughout time and place to combat rabies epidemics or prevent them. (I learned that Kentish opposition to the Chunnel was often pitched in terms of a fear that French foxes would come through the Chunnel and spread rabies!)

This is normally the kind of eclectic, broad-minded history that I love. However, I listened to this as an audiobook, which really was a struggle for me. I had previously done really well with a non-fiction audiobook (Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief), so I'm not sure if it's just that this book's eclecticism made it more difficult to follow or if it was something else. The reader was rather monotone, but about halfway through the book, he started reading parts of the book in accents when they are passages from books or quotes from interviews. This included an extremely awkward and racist-feeling imitation of a southern black woman (when reading quotes from Their Eyes Were Watching God), an awful Scottish brogue when citing interviews with Scots about AIDS, an even more awful Irish accent, and I swear to god he started to try to imitate an Anglo-Indian woman before thinking better of it. ( )
  fannyprice | Jan 6, 2014 |
I picked this up while I was browsing books at the library. The minute I opened it I was sucked in and ended up spending most of the afternoon at the library reading this book.

Even if you're not really into viral pathology I will still say to give this book a try. It reads more like a mixture of horror story, history and anthropology lesson. The authors give an astonding amount of insight to how this virus (and other sickness like it) can be traced through out human history, and how it helped shape us in many ways we never realized.

I read this for research, but I plan to buy it because it is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. ( )
  EinfachMich | Sep 21, 2013 |
I really wanted to like this book, but I have mixed feelings on it. It may not be entirely fair for me to criticize this book when its subtitle specifically calls it a "cultural history of the world's most diabolical virus." Since virtually no advances were made in rabies treatment for the thousands of years leading up to Louis Pasteur, there's not a lot of science to report on until the 1800s. But I would say it wasn't until I was about 40-50% of the way done with the book before it actually started discussing the very early stages of the recognition of germ theory. Prior to that point, the book is, essentially, a literature review. The author discusses how rabies, which is an old virus, influenced literature and our relationship with dogs. He discusses fictional werewolves, vampires, and zombies at great length, tenuously linking our obsession with biting, blood-sucking fictional creatures with our fear of rabies. I found this first half of the book tedious and dull.

The sections on Louis Pasteur, the creation of the Milwaukee Protocol, and the efforts to contain rabies in Bali and Manhattan were interesting. And I will say that some very ancient or medieval "remedies" for rabies were entertaining. But this is not a book for someone who is not a scientist but enjoys reading about the history of disease. For a disease as scary as rabies, this was not a gripping read like The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story (which is about ebola), The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story (which is about smallpox), Polio: An American Story (which as the title suggests is about polio), or to a lesser extent The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery (which is about prion diseases). I do, however, recommend this for people who are interested in the genesis of the creatures of horror books and movies. ( )
  slug9000 | Sep 11, 2013 |
I just couldn't handle the voice of the reader of the audiobook (I readily admit that I am incredibly picky about my readers). The subject matter was interesting, so I'll probably read it sometime.
  liz.mabry | Sep 11, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bill Wasikprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Murphy, Monicamain authorall editionsconfirmed
Heller, JohnnyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For our "creatures" - Emmett and Mia
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(Introduction) Ours is a domesticated age.
For more than a week, Achilles sulks while the Trojan War carries on without him.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Charts the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies, documenting how before its vaccine the disease caused fatal brain infections and sparked the creations of monsters, including werewolves, vampires and zombies.

(summary from another edition)

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