Sara Jane's Reviews > Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus

Rabid by Bill Wasik
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's review
Aug 11, 2012

liked it
Read from September 01 to 08, 2012

I am a big sucker for the history, and I love how much this book had to teach me! My one complaint, though, is that the book calls itself a cultural history, but spends a lot of time instead on the actual medical history of the disease. The authors apparently have science background (makes sense), and the painstaking process by which rabies vaccine was developed (thank you, Pasteur!), the public health policy responses, and documented medical cases of rabies get more attention from the authors than what I really wanted to explore. I wanted more detail on how rabies have factored into our horror stories -- zombies, werewolves, and vampires only got a few pages each.

I will give the book credit for making me more aware of unconscious rabies references in popular culture (Lady Gaga's "Monster" and "Teeth" will never be the same for me again), but I wanted them to share with me cultural surprises. They seemed to have interpreted the cultural element of their history very literally, restricting it only to monsters and stories that have direct (and obvious) inspiration from the disease. I just wanted more. I feel like this book would have been more satisfying for me had an anthropologist been on the author team.

On a side note, I didn't realize that we weren't vaccinated against rabies at birth -- the rabies vaccine is post-exposure only. So, uh, I'm glad I figured that out before getting bitten by something and then dying a terrible, terrible death.

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