Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier's most challenging adversaries--panic, exhaustion, heat, noise--and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them. Mary Roach dodges hostile fire with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss and survivability in combat.Read more...
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Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier's most challenging adversaries--panic, exhaustion, heat, noise--and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them. Mary Roach dodges hostile fire with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss and survivability in combat. She visits the fashion design studio of U.S. Army Natick Labs and learns why a zipper is a problem for a sniper. She visits a repurposed movie studio where amputee actors help prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds. At Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, in east Africa, we learn how diarrhea can be a threat to national security. Roach samples caffeinated meat, sniffs an archival sample of a World War II stink bomb, and stays up all night with the crew tending the missiles on the nuclear submarine USS Tennessee. She answers questions not found in any other book on the military: Why is DARPA interested in ducks? How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? Take a tour of duty with Roach, and you'll never see our nation's defenders in the same way again.
- ISBN-13: 9780393245448
- ISBN-10: 0393245446
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
- Publish Date: June 2016
- Page Count: 288
- Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds
Related CategoriesPublishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-04-04
- Reviewer: Staff
With compassion and dark humor, Roach (Gulp) delves into the world of military scientists and their drive to make combat more survivable for soldiers. Her interest in military matters wasn’t piqued by the usual aspects of warfare—armaments, tactics, honor—but the more “esoteric” ones: “exhaustion, shock, bacteria, panic, ducks.” Roach goes into great detail about the historical conditions that spawned particular areas of research, and she often describes seemingly absurd tests and experiments. Military scientists are so committed to bringing soldiers home alive that they examine nearly every facet of life and death, researching such topics as diarrhea among Navy SEALs, body odors under stress, using maggots to heal wounds, and the “injuries collectively known as urotrauma.” Roach also corrects some popular misconceptions while offering odd bits of trivia. Sharks aren’t particularly attracted to human blood, she finds, though it was discovered that bears love the taste of used tampons. And in the case of reconstructive surgery, her elaborate explanation of penile transplants brings home the true horror of war. Roach’s book is not for the squeamish or those who envision war as a glorious enterprise; it is a captivating look at the lengths scientists go to in order to reduce the horrors of war. Illus. (June)BookPage Reviews
Science on the battlefield
From the digestive system (Gulp) to the body after death (Stiff) to the science of sex (Bonk), Mary Roach’s books have all touched on familiar topics that have been written about over and over again. But Roach, a self-described “goober with a flashlight,” brings a nearly insane glee to each of her subjects as she transforms well-worn topics into fresh learning experiences. At first pass, her latest book is her least universal: Grunt explores the science of the human body at war. After all, everyone has a digestive system, we all experience death, and most of us have had sex or at least considered it—but few of us will ever fight in a war.
As Roach makes clear, Grunt is no Zero Dark Thirty, nor is it about the science of military armaments. She never ignores the bullets and bombs but instead focuses on the unsung heroes of battle. At the fashion design studio of the U.S. Army Natick Labs, Roach learns about the ballistic qualities of silk underpants and why snipers can’t wear zippers. She runs around with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss in combat. And she spends multiple chapters on penis transplants, a particularly timely topic since the first successful procedure occurred just last December.
Grunt has everything Roach fans look for: guffaw-worthy footnotes, questions pursued to hilarious and rewarding ends and connections that we never would’ve considered. Perhaps no one else walks the line of irreverent and considerate as skillfully as Roach does, and with this book, she presents something important, difficult and often ugly, leaving readers with a new appreciation for the bizarre sciences and creative minds that strive to better the lives of soldiers.
RELATED CONTENT: Read about Mary Roach's quest to find the perfect giveaway item to accompany Grunt.