Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War Book Review


Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

By Mary Roach

Hardcover in dustjacket, 288 pages

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company June 2016

Language: English

ISBN: 978-0393245448

Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches


Warfare is a parade of the absurd, and Mary Roach loves a parade.  In this book she takes a humorous look at the peculiar topic of military science, or more specifically the science of human physiology in the U.S. military.  Roach does not pull any punches either, topics covered in depth include the use of cadavers in research and testing, the medical uses of maggots, and penile transplants.  The absurdities of the bureaucratic controls on the researchers are not lost on her, and she writes with a very readable style, tongue firmly lodged in cheek.

While often funny, Roach clearly understands the science behind the research and does an excellent job communicating that to the reader.  She presents one of the best explanations of how heat stress affects the human body I have read.  She also treats the scientists and military personnel she interviews with respect.  She has a way of preserving her subjects’ personal dignity while exploring undignified topics in a humorous manner.

I bought this book for a pittance at Half Price Books, one of my all too frequent impulse buys.  I’m glad I read it, and can recommend it as an entertaining look into the science behind people in the military.