Saturday, June 7, 2008

Book Review: Parasite Rex

Author: Carl Zimmer

Pages: 245

Genre: Non Fiction/Science

Personal Rating: 3/5

From the back cover:

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE parasites control the minds of their hosts, sending them to their destruction.

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE parasites are masters of chemical warfare and camouflage, able to cloak themselves with their hosts' own molecules.

IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE parasites steer the course of evolution, where the majority of species are parasites.


For centuries, parasites have lived in nightmares, horror stories, and in the darkest shadows of science. Yet these creatures are among the world's most successful and sophisticated organisms. In Parasite Rex, Carl Zimmer deftly balances the scientific and the disgusting as he takes readers on a fantastic voyage. Traveling from the steamy jungles of Costa Rica to the fetid parasite haven of southern Sudan, Zimmer graphically brings to life how parasites can change DNA, rewire the brain, make men more distrustful and women more outgoing, and turn hosts into the living dead.

This thorough, gracefully written book brings parasites out into the open and uncovers what they can teach us about the most fundamental survival tactics in the universe.
I'm torn with how to write the review for this book. One one hand I really loved it, on the other hand sometimes it bored me to tears. The book was incredibly fascinating, in small doses. Zimmer has a knack for writing so that you can easily understand what he is saying. BUT, I have a background in science. I teach biology. I am naturally interested in his subject matter and have prior knowledge on a lot of what he was writing about (especially details about how the immune system works). I'm not sure how much someone without a science background would would struggle to enjoy the book having to first understand all the science in it. I think that as long as you realize that you may need to do a little work to understand this book go ahead and pick it up. Plan to read it in short segments over a long period of time. There are only so many parasitic infections you can take at one time. If you are easily grossed out, squeamish, don't like worms, or enjoy science leave this book for someone else.

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to your review please let me know in the comments!

1 comment:

Rebecca Reid said...

"If you are easily grossed out, squeamish, don't like worms, or enjoy science leave this book for someone else." OK, it's probably not for me, but the back cover blurb really piqued my interest. I'm not a science person, though, so I think I'd need something a little less cerebral sounding to learn about this kind of thing....

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