"From the ever-illuminating author of Bonk and Stiff comes an examination of the science behind war. Even the tiniest minutiae count on the battlefield, and Roach leads us through her discoveries in her inimitable style."
"Roach...applies her tenacious reporting and quirky point of view to efforts by scientists to conquer some of the soldier’s worst enemies."
"Covering these topics and more, Roach has done a fascinating job of portraying unexpected, creative sides of military science."
"A mirthful, informative peek behind the curtain of military science."
"Our most consistently entertaining science journalist…Roach goes where other writers wouldn’t dare….And her search produces images—a kind of technopoetry—that are hard to forget."
"Nobody does weird science quite like [Roach], and this time, she takes on war. Though all her books look at the human body in extreme situations (sex! space! death!), this isn’t simply a blood-drenched affair. Instead, Roach looks at the unexpected things that take place behind the scenes."
"[Roach] takes on the challenges the military faces to keep its fighters safe and healthy with her trademark flair (and zingy footnotes)."
"[Roach] writes exquisitely about the excruciating….wildly informative and vividly written"
"Roach is a tenacious investigative journalist with an appetite for the unappetizing...Grunt ranks high in the Roach repertoire."
"Extremely likable…and quick with a quip….[Roach’s] skill is to draw out the good humor and honesty of both the subjects and practitioners of these white arts among the dark arts of war."
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)
Roach's (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) latest exploration of the science behind ordinary things is an insightful look into the lives of soldiers—not the stories in the news but untold tales, such as how people on submarines sleep. This book covers a variety of questions that follow the author's curiosity: for example, how prevalent is food poisoning and diarrhea among special ops soldiers? How do you make and test clothing that resists rain but is breathable enough in 100-degree heat? How do medics learn the scent of a punctured intestine? Though these topics seem wide-ranging, Roach strings them together in a cohesive narrative that is delightful and quick. The only part that is at all out of place is the chapter on shark repellant, which, although interesting, seems unnecessary. Those who listened to the 99% Invisible podcast will recognize some characters from episode 191, "The Worst Smell in the World." VERDICT A must-read for fans of Roach and for those who relish learning about the secret histories of everyday things.—Cate Hirschbiel, Iwasaki Lib., Emerson Coll., Boston
Roach does it again. Amid all the debates about the military-industrial complex in our country, its impact on medicine, invention, and other scientific pursuits is often overlooked. Roach interviews those in science-related military careers, employing her cockeyed sense of humor and awing readers with what she uncovers. (http://ow.ly/PN4C305MyAa)—Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library
Roach’s enjoyable audiobook applies her penchant for geeky technical detail and juvenile humor to the science of military training, supply, and medical care. Abby Elvidge’s narration, at least initially, distracts from, rather than supports, the audiobook. She tries too hard to inject feeling into the text—as if every word must bear an emotional weight, an unworkable tactic for listeners. The artificial emphases partially obscure the sense of the work and disrupt Roach’s comic timing. Eventually much of this smooths out, and Elvidge’s engaging natural energy and expressiveness surface. Her voice, though a bit scratchy, is clear and conveys Roach’s silly and snarky humor. If Elvidge could have started where she ended, GRUNT would be better served. W.M. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
A cannon fires grocery chickens at parked jets, testing ways to protect planes against bird strikes. Readers encountering this esoteric project on the first page will settle back to enjoy another patented scientific romp, this one on battlefield research, by journalist Roach (Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, 2013, etc.)."For every general and Medal of Honor winner," writes the author, "there are a hundred military scientists whose names you'll never hear. The work I write about represents a fraction of a percent of all that goes on. I have omitted whole disciplines of worthy endeavor." Roach reveals many of these names, however, along with the stories of their quests to shield soldiers from harm and, if this fails, repair the often gruesome results. Traveling from proving ground to lab to expensive, realistic fake battle settings, the author recounts and often participates as researchers search for better ways to protect soldiers from bullets, burns, explosions, noise, heat, sharks, insomnia, drowning, and disease. If all fails, the military wants to correct the consequences with better prostheses and surgical reconstructions of mutilated or missing body parts. Roach joins Malcolm Gladwell and Steven Levitt in making a career of turning serious research on oddball subjects into bestsellers. But while Gladwell and Levitt aim to stimulate readers with unusual connections among subjects, Roach, the author of Stiff and Bonk, is mostly seeking laughs. She restrains herself when it's inappropriate (an admirable chapter on repairing damaged penises) but never resists easy targets (blast-resistant underwear, the macho approach to diarrhea) and works hard to find humor wherever she turns. When material runs thin, the author inserts breezy anecdotes, descriptions of her surroundings, the scientists' physiognomy, and the sufferings of a journalist willing to try anything. Battlefield R&D is a topic too fascinating to ruin, so readers who can tolerate the author's relentless flippancy will not regret the experience.