Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War Review


Summary: 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.


My Review: As with her other titles, Mary Roach tackles human warfare in her typical irreverent, but fascinating fashion. She covers an array of topics, ones that you would not suspect such as hearing loss due to bombs, sweating, diarrhea, stink bombs, and more. She speaks to an array of military personnel and even spends time in Djibouti and in a submarine.

I was highly entertained as usual; Mary’s footnotes are hysterical. I also learned some very interesting things on what the military is concerned about and doing research on. I had no idea that most military in combat situations experience hearing loss in some form or other.  Each chapter covers a different aspect of military welfare and safety. The books isn’t really about warfare or war, but about the various ways scientists, researchers, and even fashion designers work to help the men and women in the military.

I am admittedly, a big fan of this author and have read three of her other titles. This one did not disappoint.


Rating: 5/5

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