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How to Make a Zombie: The Real Life (and Death) Science of Reanimation and Mind Control

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Join a notorious pop science punk as he investigates real zombie reports from around the world. It's terrifying! The search for the means to control the bodies and minds of our fellow humans has been underway for millennia, from the sleep-inducing honeycombs that felled Pompey’s army to the Voodoo potions of Haiti. Now, Frank Swain, the force behind Science Punk, has joine Join a notorious pop science punk as he investigates real zombie reports from around the world. It's terrifying! The search for the means to control the bodies and minds of our fellow humans has been underway for millennia, from the sleep-inducing honeycombs that felled Pompey’s army to the Voodoo potions of Haiti. Now, Frank Swain, the force behind Science Punk, has joined the quest, digging up genuine zombie research: • dog heads brought back to life without their bodies • secret agents dosing targets with zombie drugs • parasites that push their hosts to suicide or sex changes • the elixir of life hidden in an eighteenth-century painting This mind-bending and entertaining excavation of incredible science is unlike anything you’ve read before.


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Join a notorious pop science punk as he investigates real zombie reports from around the world. It's terrifying! The search for the means to control the bodies and minds of our fellow humans has been underway for millennia, from the sleep-inducing honeycombs that felled Pompey’s army to the Voodoo potions of Haiti. Now, Frank Swain, the force behind Science Punk, has joine Join a notorious pop science punk as he investigates real zombie reports from around the world. It's terrifying! The search for the means to control the bodies and minds of our fellow humans has been underway for millennia, from the sleep-inducing honeycombs that felled Pompey’s army to the Voodoo potions of Haiti. Now, Frank Swain, the force behind Science Punk, has joined the quest, digging up genuine zombie research: • dog heads brought back to life without their bodies • secret agents dosing targets with zombie drugs • parasites that push their hosts to suicide or sex changes • the elixir of life hidden in an eighteenth-century painting This mind-bending and entertaining excavation of incredible science is unlike anything you’ve read before.

30 review for How to Make a Zombie: The Real Life (and Death) Science of Reanimation and Mind Control

  1. 4 out of 5

    Wayland Smith

    I read about this book a while ago, and finally got to it for one of my reading challenges. It's a very interesting study of what zombies are in reality and fiction, and takes a lot of detours into obscure corners of medical history and some terrifying creatures in the real world. I will say it's probably not something you want to read while you're eating, as a general rule. The first part is about the "real" zombies in the area of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, etc. After investigating the vari I read about this book a while ago, and finally got to it for one of my reading challenges. It's a very interesting study of what zombies are in reality and fiction, and takes a lot of detours into obscure corners of medical history and some terrifying creatures in the real world. I will say it's probably not something you want to read while you're eating, as a general rule. The first part is about the "real" zombies in the area of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, etc. After investigating the various tales from that region, the book covers a lot of the critters, mostly insects, that essentially turn their hosts into zombies of a kind. Some of these I had heard of before, some I had not. All of them are disturbing in one way or another. Then the writer turns to bits of medical history I didn't know about and was just fine with being in ignorance of. Did you know for a while, they experimented with taking blood from corpses to give to people who needed it? Or that a doctor involved in that would become famous for something else later? The experiments about trying to keep parts of living beings alive are disturbing. My only real complaint about the book was a formatting issue. There were footnotes, many of which were actually pretty entertaining. The problem was that the asterix marking them were so small they were easy to miss. A really interesting, if disturbing, book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    Interesting and even quite well written -- which is to say, engaging -- but wanders far from the original point. The earlier chapters are much more closely linked to the title: later chapters deviate into issues which are sort of related but not quite, like resuscitation and then on to organs grown in vats. It's certainly all about our attempts to control the human body, and the weird line -- practically and ethically -- between life and death, but it's a little odd to stick that all under the u Interesting and even quite well written -- which is to say, engaging -- but wanders far from the original point. The earlier chapters are much more closely linked to the title: later chapters deviate into issues which are sort of related but not quite, like resuscitation and then on to organs grown in vats. It's certainly all about our attempts to control the human body, and the weird line -- practically and ethically -- between life and death, but it's a little odd to stick that all under the umbrella of talking about zombies. It's almost a cheat to get people interested in zombie movies interested in real ethical dilemmas. Whether it'd work, I don't know -- I enjoyed it, at least.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bernie Gourley

    The title of this book might lead you to believe that it’s either frivolous or that it’s an examination of a successful sci-fi subgenre. In fact, the book presents some serious (if disturbing, and often unsuccessful) science on two concepts that are disparate except by way of analogy of the Zombie – the brain-obsessed walking undead popularized in film and fiction. Those two ideas are: 1.) how definitive of a state is death, can people be brought back from it, and – if so – under what conditions The title of this book might lead you to believe that it’s either frivolous or that it’s an examination of a successful sci-fi subgenre. In fact, the book presents some serious (if disturbing, and often unsuccessful) science on two concepts that are disparate except by way of analogy of the Zombie – the brain-obsessed walking undead popularized in film and fiction. Those two ideas are: 1.) how definitive of a state is death, can people be brought back from it, and – if so – under what conditions and at what costs? 2.) is it possible to completely usurp an individual’s will, and – if so – by what means? The book consists of seven chapters that are topically organized. The first chapter introduces the idea of Zombies, discussing early reporting on them from interested parties visiting the cane fields of the Caribbean. But it also delves into the idea of how drugs and freezing might create temporary death (or the appearance of death) from which individuals can be [partially or fully] successfully roused. Chapter two explores the history of research about how to bring a deceased person back from the dead. Squeamish readers should be forewarned there is discussion of such things as partial dogs (i.e. the head end) being temporarily revived. The book touches on various ideas related to resuscitation. There is a discussion of one researcher’s study of katsu, techniques used in judo and jujutsu to revive an individual who has lost consciousness [or worse.] Near Death Experiences [NDE] and Out-of-Body [OoB] are also covered. These strange phenomena reported by revived individuals are too common to ignore, but -- while they are often presented as evidence of an afterlife and /or the divine, there’s little reason to believe that they aren’t perfectly natural phenomena. [e.g. Neuroscientists are able to induce an OoB with a carefully placed electrode.] Chapter three shifts gears from the question of death and resuscitation to the one of mind control. While the bulk of the chapter is devoted to pharmaceutical approaches to mind control, it also examines mind control by other means – e.g. authority as an agent of mind control as seen in the famous Milgram experiments, as well as hypnosis. Most of the drug related sections deal with psychedelics (and their naturally occurring precursors.) Swain describes the CIA’s varied shenanigans with LSD in MK-Ultra, Operation Midnight Climax, and the Frank Olsen death. [Long story short, you can’t control someone’s mind with psychedelics, but you can still achieve some despicable ends.] Chapter four continues the exploration of mind control, but focuses on more invasive approaches -- from lobotomies to electro-stimulation. Of course, even as these procedures got more sophisticated, they could still only reliably make vegetables. If you think the history of lobotomies from chapter four was as scary as it can get, I’ve got news for you. Chapters five and [particularly] six are the one’s that I found both the most fascinating and by far the most terrifying. These chapters, together, uncover how mind control is achieved in the natural world by parasitic creatures. Clearly, if there is any risk of successfully taking over a human will, it will not be with doses of Acid or icepicks stuck in the brain, it will be from figuring out how some of nature’s parasitic masters of mind control do it and copying from their playbooks. Chapter five discusses wasps and fungi that successful take over their [fortunately non-human] hosts. I wasn’t familiar with how many mind-controlling wasps there are, but I had heard of the fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. Said fungus infects an ant, steers it up into a tree, forces it to secure itself by locking in its mandibles onto a branch, and then the fruiting body blooms out of the ant’s frickin’ scull. It’s chapter six, however, where things really get creepy. There’s an extended discussion of rabies, but the wildest part was a discussion of Toxoplasma gondi. T. gondi likes to infect cats, but if it can’t find a cat, it’ll infect a rodent and selectively (not only turn off the rat’s fear of cats but also) make the rat attracted to cats. What’s fascinating is that all of the rat’s other usual fears remain intact (bright lights, sharp noises, etc.) The last chapter is on the various intriguing things that happen after a person dies -- from cannibalism to organ harvesting. I think the most interesting discussion to me, however, was one about keeping a brain-dead accident victim alive long enough that her baby could live to term within her. (There was also an intriguing – if unnerving – case of a mother who wanted her deceased son’s sperm harvested.) The book’s only graphics are black and white photos at the head of each chapter, but it is footnoted and has a chapter-by-chapter bibliography. I found this book riveting. I learned a lot from it. The cases are presented in amusing and enthralling ways. If you are interested in the questions of what it means to be dead and how safe your free will is, this is an engrossing look at those subjects. I highly recommend it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    William

    I loved this book. Not because I particularly love zombies, but because I love esoteric facts and trivia. This book is chock full of those. There are zombies among us. Certainly not walking dead or any other Hollywood depiction of zombies but parasites that change body chemistry, insects that alter mood and function, cat lovers more prone to suicide because they've been exposed to an organism only present in cat feces! Yikes!. This is a fun read and so informative that I'm sure I'll be a hit at I loved this book. Not because I particularly love zombies, but because I love esoteric facts and trivia. This book is chock full of those. There are zombies among us. Certainly not walking dead or any other Hollywood depiction of zombies but parasites that change body chemistry, insects that alter mood and function, cat lovers more prone to suicide because they've been exposed to an organism only present in cat feces! Yikes!. This is a fun read and so informative that I'm sure I'll be a hit at my next parlor soiree.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Meghan (TheBookGoblin)

    Cool and entertaining. Macabre history and old school science mixed with great narration.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Christensen

    This is not a book I would normally read, but it came up as a reference while researching. It turned out to be quite an interesting read...as well as looking into some of the references. This book appeared to me at that time, (shortly prior to the crimes originating on or about May 23, 2014, (the nine page completed, typed full articulation of these crimes disappeared from my belonging while at 1020 in Olathe, at The Branches, immediately upon completion from the previous notes, completed at Joh This is not a book I would normally read, but it came up as a reference while researching. It turned out to be quite an interesting read...as well as looking into some of the references. This book appeared to me at that time, (shortly prior to the crimes originating on or about May 23, 2014, (the nine page completed, typed full articulation of these crimes disappeared from my belonging while at 1020 in Olathe, at The Branches, immediately upon completion from the previous notes, completed at Johnson County Community College, Johnson County, Kansas, late 2018, I believe, due to the then intensely continuing situation, even after being reported to all levels of law enforcement in 2016, who conveniently call the local county mental health facility upon reporting, with JCMH concurring with my wishes, followed by a visit from a white male and white female claiming to be from Topeka (one-upmanship or perpetrators' "trumping" ways)) originating in Mission, Johnson County, Kansas, while sitting on the bench in front of the Mission Village Inn, resulting in multiple major physical injury, still undocumented, prosecuted, treated, or compensated for, as well as paperwork returned from Overland Park Regional Medical Center, after being taken to Olathe Medical Center, by a stalker known to me as a Missouri licensed attorney, while impersonating a police officer, in uniformed, and an unmarked "police cruiser" of the white sedan type reported in the Smithville Lake, Missouri submission during The Year of the Police Report, 2016, and returning billing and paperwork from an alleged facility, with the campus of the actual facility, (where there appeared to a physician from India, but this believed to be innocent and even highly targeted) in no instance matching the campus layout of the alleged facility. Immediately prior to this incident I had approximately 20 books checked out from the Johnson County Kansas Public Library, which resulted in overdue fines, due to the duration of being held against my will at this facility. (KCMOPD and Gladstone Police Department later engaged in similar perpetrating, employing high level gaslighting behavior with St. Luke's Northland, previously articulated, followed later by Lenexa Police Department's high spectrum gaslighting while working with Shawnee Mission Medical Center and Behavioral Freedom, Topeka, KS, with another physician from India, Dr. Sharma. I am completely mentally healthy). Based on personal experience, the police in multiple jurisdictions are highly involved in these perpetrator-coined "focused exterminations," "take downs," etc., as is the medical community in some instances, with at least some noted similarities to the Monarch Program, or Project Paperclip (Sparkster's hubs on the topic could no longer be located on Hubpages). This book was among the books that were checked out from the library during this time. This book appeared to me at that time, while researching various aspects of the stalking condition, of being hunted and stalked like human prey by multiple perpetrators, many unknown to the victim, to be nearly a handbook for stalkers. This book spoke of the prevalence of voodoo in the Mediterranean, I believe it was, paraphrased regarding a referenced area as Catholicism and voodoo being widely practiced, and including the use of a pufferfish concoction. It spoke of agricultural issues, "crazy" honey from bees feeding on the wrong plants, and the author appeared fascinated toward the end of the book, which I read several years ago now, and do not have in front of me, with the brain parasite, T-gondi. Toxoplasma gondi is a brain parasite, and falls within the recognized brain theme. Stalkers infect victims with parasites, as diagnosed and treated, during the 2005 workplace mobbing and multiple perpetrator stalking, at KU MedWest, Lenexa, Johnson County, Kanas. The author went on about how he claims T-gondi gets in the brain of the victim and perhaps even used the word "reprograms" it for self-destruction, the increase of automobile accidents, etc. (Note that KU MedWest was both mine and my then toddler grandson's physicians, him in pediatrics at the time. There was a "new" middle aged female pediatricians from India, who he saw three times during the 2005 workplace mobbing and multiple perpetrator stalking, who ended up gaslighting me with, "Grandma just worries too much." Grandma does not just worry too much, and would not have even fathomed at the time his food and milk (one plate thrown away, and two gallons of milk returned to QuikTrip) in our refrigerator was being drugged, nor the nightmare in store for us, as well as his mother, continuing to this very day. Also not that I was seen during this time due to my feet profusely sweating, and was told it was a "rare condition" or "rare disease," which is also a theme. (If you have had a chance to follow this situation from our hijacked pages, Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother Facebook Resource Page and Google Community, Narcissistic Abuse: Echo Recovery, Blogger blogs, etc., that the police report with faxsimile marks across the top of it, badge no. 1030, Overland Park Police Department, was exposed as orders from the upper middle aged white male known to me as a licensed Missouri attorney I worked for in KCMO in 2005, during the workplace mobbing and multiple perpetrator stalking that repeatedly nearly took my life, but were masquerading on the report as comments I made to him, which I did not make. This document, along with others, disappeared from my Olathe, Johnson County, Kansas hotel room in mid-2020). The condition with my feet has not happened since that time, and it certainly was not due to a "rare disease." This is highly suspicious commentary in retrospect, as there is a "rare disease" theme as (well as a habit of perpetrators to make a comment, which is actually an "order, these are manipulative, deceitful, treacherous individuals)," distinctly appearing to be inflicted "rare diseases" for human experimentation, without regard for the often destroyed innocent life. Also note that there was another person by my name at this medical building, just as there was in Missouri at my bank, clear back when I was using my maiden name 30 years ago, and other occasions. This appears to be what they do, perhaps for convenience of rewriting history, identity theft, etc. Based on perpetrator commentary this is allegedly a belief of one of the doctors involved in stalking, that it is an ancient secret that all disease begins with parasite infection, and perpetrators distinctly inflect or attempt to inflict victims with disease or other conditions, with "no charges, of course. For example, no police officer showed up on a very busy main street in Lenexa, Johnson County, Kansas, Quivira, right outside of Four Colonies, at the entrance, across the street from Alliance Data, when drugged so badly I had dropped, and multiple perpetrators were trying to steal my purse and inject me with something. These were small bubbles with needles on the end of them, not syringes, which may have been blue, too. The previous tenant in my then Mission basement apartment, was an elderly man who died of a brain tumor.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eustacia Tan

    My brother spotted this book in the library and asked me to borrow it because in his words, “I don’t want to attract suspicion.” But I ended up reading it first and it’s really interesting! How to make a zombie is all about the science of the undead (or living dead). From Voodou zombies that use fugu poison to induce a state similar to death to Russian experiments reviving a decapitated dog’s head, the book takes a look at the various ways people have tried to raise the dead and the ways we may b My brother spotted this book in the library and asked me to borrow it because in his words, “I don’t want to attract suspicion.” But I ended up reading it first and it’s really interesting! How to make a zombie is all about the science of the undead (or living dead). From Voodou zombies that use fugu poison to induce a state similar to death to Russian experiments reviving a decapitated dog’s head, the book takes a look at the various ways people have tried to raise the dead and the ways we may be zombies. The latter part is more on the insects and animal kingdom and there are a surprising number of insects who not only lay their eggs in a living host but who can manipulate the host to act in ways disadvantageous to its survival. Which makes my fear of insects seem a lot more rational now. I really liked the later chapters, which were about how 'zombies' are being created today. The first part, which is on zombies created the natural way, is more on whether you can resuscitate a dead body. It's pretty interesting, but one can only read about so many failed methods. I thought the chapters on how brains can be taken over and actions influenced to be much more interesting, although they aren't really traditional zombie stuff (although I suppose if you take a traditional zombie as the "fake death than hypnotised to be a slave then it's somewhat similar). Not a science major so I can’t speak to the accuracy of its contents, but this was an engaging read. I liked the humour mixed into the book (especially the Japanese-based pun) and chuckled more than a few times. This is definitely pop-science but it's enjoyable and that's what counts. Definitely for aspiring mad scientists or people who like weird pop science books. This review was first posted at Inside the mind of a Bibliophile

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    CW: This book is not for the squeamish. Animal testing with in-depth descriptions, animal abuse, abuse of the mentally ill, etc. It's all historical, but that doesn't mean it's any less disturbing. I like some good science, but this was a bit more than I was expecting when I started. Overall, I thought the writing was really excellent, very clear and good at explaining terms when necessary. It gave me the creepy crawlies a lot, but it kind of went hard at some of my personal anxieties/triggers in CW: This book is not for the squeamish. Animal testing with in-depth descriptions, animal abuse, abuse of the mentally ill, etc. It's all historical, but that doesn't mean it's any less disturbing. I like some good science, but this was a bit more than I was expecting when I started. Overall, I thought the writing was really excellent, very clear and good at explaining terms when necessary. It gave me the creepy crawlies a lot, but it kind of went hard at some of my personal anxieties/triggers in the final chapter. But I probably deserved it for not knowing what I was getting into! Really informative, some good explanations of stories I knew before as well as lots of new ones. I don't plan on keeping this, but one of my best friends is pre-med and I plan on gifting this to her - I hope she'll learn something new from this as well!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Buhs

    Frank Swain’s first book comes to us at a critical juncture in the history of zombies. The shuffling undead entered the American imagination in the late nineteenth century with the journalism of Lafcadio Hearn1 and now are ubiquitous--consider “The Walking Dead”;2 World War Z;3 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies;4 Zombie Economics;5 and on and on. For most of the twentieth century, zombies were conventional bogeys, a thoughtless human under a wizard’s control or the flesh-starved living dead, in ei Frank Swain’s first book comes to us at a critical juncture in the history of zombies. The shuffling undead entered the American imagination in the late nineteenth century with the journalism of Lafcadio Hearn1 and now are ubiquitous--consider “The Walking Dead”;2 World War Z;3 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies;4 Zombie Economics;5 and on and on. For most of the twentieth century, zombies were conventional bogeys, a thoughtless human under a wizard’s control or the flesh-starved living dead, in either case something to avoid, fight, destroy.6 The turn of the millennium brought a different kind of zombie, as Victoria Nelson has pointed out in Gothicka.7 Zombies--like ghosts, werewolves, and vampires before them--are becoming lovable. Witness the recent movie “Warm Bodies.”8 Nelson argues that this transformation is a harbinger of a new spirituality, the beginning of a post-Christian religion.9 Swain’s aims in How to Make a Zombie are not those of Nelson’s. In the introduction he promises that zombies show “what it means to be human, what it means to be alive, and what it means to be the master of your own destiny.”10 But his loose language and the book’s looser organization prevent him from plumbing these philosophical questions. Rather, the book’s success is in blurring the boundary between human and zombie. “You are an undead zombie, and you always have been,” he concludes.11 Zombies aren’t bad: they are us, our friends, family, and lovers. The path Swain follows to this conclusion is a lot like a zombie’s walk, indirect and digressive. Swain is the author of the blog Science Punk,12 and the writing shows that influence. It is breezy, disjointed, inconclusive--so much like a blog that at one point Swain suggests the reader set up a Google alert to keep up to date with the latest research on near-death experiences.13 The book misses hyperlinks. As it is, the citation style, notes, and bibliography make it difficult to see the evidence for his arguments--and this is important because his history is not always to be trusted. He offers a simplistic view of the medieval Catholic Church as an impediment to science,14 a stereotype overturned by historians over the past two decades.15 His description of Mesmerism is similarly naive. Swain takes it as a given that when Anton Mesmer hypnotized people in the eighteenth century, he was completely in control.16 Historian Alison Winter, however, shows that these performances were collaborative, with the subjects often forcing the action.17 Swain is also betrayed by his language. Discussing seventeenth-century concerns about the difficulty of diagnosing death, for example, he writes, “Slowly but surely the space between living and dead was widened”18 when exactly the opposite was happening--the distinction between life and death was becoming harder to define. Hanged people sometimes resuscitated.19 Experiments showed that electricity animated corpses.20 Fireplace bellows returned breath to the asphyxiated.21 The term to suffer the most abuse is “zombie.” Swain begins by considering attempts to explain zombies in Haiti--were they the products of drugs, or were they fulfilling a social role?22 (He offers no answer.) Swain then moves to experiments reviving the dead and keeping organs alive outside the body--scientific attempts to create something resembling a zombie23--before examining various forms of mind control. He dips into the history of attempts to manipulate behavior with drugs24 and lobotomies,25 and then moves to parasites that usurp the will of their hosts,26 straining the definition of zombie almost beyond recognition. With a culminating chapter on the global trade in human body parts,27 we leave behind zombies completely. The link between this panoply of stories is not creating the undead or mindless servants but the persistence of a vulgar materialism in scientific research. Sergy Bryukhonenko’s creation of the first heart-lung machine to keep alive severed dog heads28 and American scientist José Delgado’s hope to create a “psychocivilized” society by implanting electrodes in everyone’s brains29 share one thing: the belief that the human body is only a machine. But there is something else that unites the book, making it more than the sum of its parts and overcoming its limitations. That is Swain’s infectious enthusiasm. For those willing to get lost in the book, to not worry overmuch about the terms of the argument or where it is going, this is a fun book. The stories are wonderful and well told. Readers get extensive coverage of Bryukhonenko’s grisly research30 and Walter Freeman’s lobotomy industry--more than 200 operations in one two-week period!31--and the Turkish honey that drives people mad32 and the wasps that make caterpillars guard their cocooning young33 and a virus that makes its host violent.34 Paradigmatic is the story of Toxoplasmosis gondii, a parasite that needs cats to complete its life cycle.35 The protozoan, though, is often passed to rodents and humans, too.36 Disturbingly fascinating research suggests the parasite returns to cats by changing the brain of its suboptimal hosts, making mice attracted to cats37--the better to be eaten--and maybe make humans reckless38--the better, Swain muses, to die and pass on to a cat?39 It is in this sense that Swain claims we are already zombies--already controlled by unseen forces, already composed of parts that don’t need us to exist.40 But the book transcends this mechanistic philosophy. The book is alive. The zombie tales Swain tells are love stories.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    I'm not sure what I thought this book was going to be when I first started reading it, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised at the way Swain weaves a fabric of science, myth, history, and popular culture that attempts to answer the question, "what is a 'real' zombie (if such a thing exists)?" To get the answer to that question, I recommend you read this book. I'm not sure what I thought this book was going to be when I first started reading it, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised at the way Swain weaves a fabric of science, myth, history, and popular culture that attempts to answer the question, "what is a 'real' zombie (if such a thing exists)?" To get the answer to that question, I recommend you read this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Subject matter is all over the place and the author detours several times from the topic. But, still an interesting read for those who enjoy nonfiction science books (or who just like zombies).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sunnyvic

    Fantastic

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I must admit, part of the pleasure of reading this book was seeing the glances I got on the subway--uh-oh, that scrawny woman is planning to take over the world! Yep, watch out. I even had one conversation to that effect, when a guy struck up a conversation asking about my plans. Naturally, I will not reveal them to anyone but my evil henchcat. The chief delight of the conversation was getting to shut down his attempted mansplanining by countering with details of Haitian zombie beliefs--because I must admit, part of the pleasure of reading this book was seeing the glances I got on the subway--uh-oh, that scrawny woman is planning to take over the world! Yep, watch out. I even had one conversation to that effect, when a guy struck up a conversation asking about my plans. Naturally, I will not reveal them to anyone but my evil henchcat. The chief delight of the conversation was getting to shut down his attempted mansplanining by countering with details of Haitian zombie beliefs--because I'm the one reading the book, dang it, so don't you try to tell me that like it's news. Anyway, this was a very fun book to read. It was wide-ranging, from actual zombie culture, to efforts to keep organs alive for transplanting, to brain death, to US and Soviet mind-control experiments with chemicals and implants, to parasites that hijack other animals' brains. Despite the variety, the book doesn't feel cobbled together. The chapters lead into each other and refer back to previous chapters--while they could be reworked to stand alone, they don't feel like a collection of individual pieces brought together for the heck of it. Why only three stars? Because I am a fiction/narrative lover at heart. The information does flow well, but the overarching narrative--the effort to build a zombie--is so infrequently present that it starts to feel a bit forced when it does show up. While we learn the theory of building a zombie, the author never quite manages to pull it all together, to talk about the practical aspects of the impending zombie apocalypse. A concluding chapter combining some of the earlier discussions might have helped. But then, that might have ended up looking even more forced than the random hints in the middle of a naturally progressing discussion. Fun book, would recommend for the content! Just be ready to be a bit of a hypochondriac toward the end...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    How did you hear about this item?   It was a bit of a dare. The book was sitting on the new Book shelves at the library going unread. As we were planning the Zombie Golf fundraiser, Jesse kept mentioning that I should read the book. I was fascinated by the title and in truth felt a bit sorry for the book so I took it home. Tell us about it:   This is a group of non-fiction short stories, of a sort, in the category of really weird stuff you didn't need to know but once you do you love to have these How did you hear about this item?   It was a bit of a dare. The book was sitting on the new Book shelves at the library going unread. As we were planning the Zombie Golf fundraiser, Jesse kept mentioning that I should read the book. I was fascinated by the title and in truth felt a bit sorry for the book so I took it home. Tell us about it:   This is a group of non-fiction short stories, of a sort, in the category of really weird stuff you didn't need to know but once you do you love to have these tidbits in your conversational arsenal. There are stories of places and cultures that believe very strongly on the reality of zombies, real-life Dr.s who found ways to make a dog's head, no body attached, come back to like, and then bugs, that have a way of making their host do their will to help the bog survive at the cost of the host's demise. It's weird and creepy, fascinating and filled with stories that show you the origins of new areas of science that have been used to save lives such as heart transplants, and medicines to cure people. Would you recommend this? Why or why not?   I highly recommend this book if you love to know strange and interesting things about life, nature, and some medical practices that would never be allowed in this day and age. This would be a great cross-over book for teens moving into reading "adult" titles.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Garvey

    Twenty minutes into a lecture by the author (he'd barely got past the Haitian zombie bit) I hit the Kindle store and ordered Swain's book. He's probably a better speaker than he is an author but the book obviously has far more detail than a one hour talk. And those details, in all their fascinating, grotesque, strange glory are what make this such a fun book to read. From very serious medical advances to Victorians galvanising dead criminals to madcap Soviet scientists reanimating dead dogs and e Twenty minutes into a lecture by the author (he'd barely got past the Haitian zombie bit) I hit the Kindle store and ordered Swain's book. He's probably a better speaker than he is an author but the book obviously has far more detail than a one hour talk. And those details, in all their fascinating, grotesque, strange glory are what make this such a fun book to read. From very serious medical advances to Victorians galvanising dead criminals to madcap Soviet scientists reanimating dead dogs and even more bonkers Americans punching dead sheep back to life, Swain recounts tales stretching back hundreds of years of utter strangeness. Stuffed with unusual facts, I learned a lot about reanimation's strange history and got to read some truly repellent stuff about just how horrid nature is (the emerald cockroach wasp and the gordian worm especially stand out). Throw in some frightening stuff about mind control and the very, very disturbing history of the trans orbital lobotomy and you have a very entertaining and enlightening, if sometimes rambling book that covers a huge amount of very, very odd ground.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    Mary Roach-journalistic style book to get at what would it take to make a Zombie from what is available in science and nature. The author covers a wide-range of areas and is a good researcher. The main point of the book is that the line between life and death is so blurred it's hard to get a definite definiton of death. Weirdest example for me: Woman pregent for only two weeks has an accident and falls into a coma, she goes 36 weeks and delivers a baby while in a coma. Pros: Short book that touc Mary Roach-journalistic style book to get at what would it take to make a Zombie from what is available in science and nature. The author covers a wide-range of areas and is a good researcher. The main point of the book is that the line between life and death is so blurred it's hard to get a definite definiton of death. Weirdest example for me: Woman pregent for only two weeks has an accident and falls into a coma, she goes 36 weeks and delivers a baby while in a coma. Pros: Short book that touches on a many topics. Well-written and you can tell the author knows the subject so you don't feel like you are missing anything major. I love that someone does all the leg work. Cons: You may want a more in depth book for the subjects talked about. For example, I was hoping there would be a bit more on controlling groups of people without obviously blatant things like drugs or surgery like cult leaders seem to do. I will have to look elsewhere.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    This is a really good read that not only runs through the more traditional zombies stories from around the world covering both their urban legend/folk story influences and their real-life origins before moving on to more modern 'zombie' stories that test how we define a zombie. Of course this book includes the many incidences in nature where one organism controls another, including a few that influence human behaviour (in a way very reminiscent of the Happening...). Swain writes with a flair and This is a really good read that not only runs through the more traditional zombies stories from around the world covering both their urban legend/folk story influences and their real-life origins before moving on to more modern 'zombie' stories that test how we define a zombie. Of course this book includes the many incidences in nature where one organism controls another, including a few that influence human behaviour (in a way very reminiscent of the Happening...). Swain writes with a flair and passion that infects his readers so much so that you can't help but saying 'oh just one more chapter' (turning them into temporary zombies perhaps). This is definitely food for thought and one that will have you watching and reading those glorious zombie horrors in a completely different way.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sage

    "It seems fitting that a spell of death would turn out to be along the road to a cure." If you're planning to create a zombie army that will do either harm or good, this book will be of little help (*sigh*). If you have a fascination for medical history, the dead, the undead, and morbid reality, then you'll love this book, provided, that you're not a know-it-all who doesn't need to be reminded of these facts. Being completely oblivious, most of the information was new to me, and I loved them. Zom "It seems fitting that a spell of death would turn out to be along the road to a cure." If you're planning to create a zombie army that will do either harm or good, this book will be of little help (*sigh*). If you have a fascination for medical history, the dead, the undead, and morbid reality, then you'll love this book, provided, that you're not a know-it-all who doesn't need to be reminded of these facts. Being completely oblivious, most of the information was new to me, and I loved them. Zombies are adorable. Will reread this every once in a while when I need a little cheering up. Although I still don't know how to make a zombie, I'm getting there, and this book made small (but significant) contributions. 3.8 stars

  19. 5 out of 5

    Holden Attradies

    This book was intensely interesting and very engaging, the science in it was very well written and as up to date as it could probably be. The book covered a wide range of very interesting subjects, all with an underlining theme, but honestly if I had been handed the book without the title I'm not sure how clearly I could have stated that theme. As much as I like the title it does feel a little... O, I don't know, chosen to help move books? It's not that ti's misleading, but it seems there could This book was intensely interesting and very engaging, the science in it was very well written and as up to date as it could probably be. The book covered a wide range of very interesting subjects, all with an underlining theme, but honestly if I had been handed the book without the title I'm not sure how clearly I could have stated that theme. As much as I like the title it does feel a little... O, I don't know, chosen to help move books? It's not that ti's misleading, but it seems there could have been a better, more timeless title chosen. Anyways, if you are into zombies and science writing or Mary Roach books you'll love this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark Brandon

    Overall quite an interesting read. At times it gets quite scientific and a bit confusing but without doubt it certainly gets you thinking. As I said in my mid-read review I was quite surprised by how many of my 'areas of interest' were covered here. So if you have any interest in Horror Films, Mental Illness, Human cloning, Exotic Diseases, Mind Control or anything in between then you should give this book a go! Overall quite an interesting read. At times it gets quite scientific and a bit confusing but without doubt it certainly gets you thinking. As I said in my mid-read review I was quite surprised by how many of my 'areas of interest' were covered here. So if you have any interest in Horror Films, Mental Illness, Human cloning, Exotic Diseases, Mind Control or anything in between then you should give this book a go!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karina

    I enjoy the strange part of the non-fiction shelves, which became obvious as I read this, as it was mostly a jumble of topics I've already read about at length - from voodoo to parasites to intriguing Russian science experiments. It skims over everything, making it a bit of a frustrating book to an interested reader, but a funky title probably makes up for a lot in a gift-giving or shelf-displaying context. (And it did introduce me to "mad honey" and rhododendrons.) I enjoy the strange part of the non-fiction shelves, which became obvious as I read this, as it was mostly a jumble of topics I've already read about at length - from voodoo to parasites to intriguing Russian science experiments. It skims over everything, making it a bit of a frustrating book to an interested reader, but a funky title probably makes up for a lot in a gift-giving or shelf-displaying context. (And it did introduce me to "mad honey" and rhododendrons.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kyrie

    This book wanders all over the place from Haiti and zombie reports to Soviet Russia and experiments to keep dog heads alive. Then it detours into insects and viruses that make their hosts behave in abnormal ways. It touches on lobotomies, organ donations and test tube babies. The title was catchy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    This book was a quick and easy pop science read focusing mainly on the efforts of scientists to reanimate the dead. The work on animals was a bit disturbing, but the experiments on executed criminals was intriguing. Also, the information on how bacteria can change your behavior was fascinating. Overall, an interesting read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    This book satiated and sparked some curiosity for me. While the writing tends to jump from one idea to another, I appreciate the author's interspersed humor. This historical and scientific tromp through the history of zombie and our medical experimentation through the ages is a delight. Definitely a few novel ideas springing from this read. This book satiated and sparked some curiosity for me. While the writing tends to jump from one idea to another, I appreciate the author's interspersed humor. This historical and scientific tromp through the history of zombie and our medical experimentation through the ages is a delight. Definitely a few novel ideas springing from this read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cherry Martin

    This was an enjoyable and easy read with done interesting cases explained in a catching and readable way, but I couldn't help but feel the title of the book was quite misleading. I expected more horror stories of resurrected body parts, Frankenstein style. This was an enjoyable and easy read with done interesting cases explained in a catching and readable way, but I couldn't help but feel the title of the book was quite misleading. I expected more horror stories of resurrected body parts, Frankenstein style.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    This book was alright. A lot of stuff I already knew, but some new fun facts. It's basically one of those tours of the interesting and macabre stuff the author could come across historically and biologically. This book was alright. A lot of stuff I already knew, but some new fun facts. It's basically one of those tours of the interesting and macabre stuff the author could come across historically and biologically.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    Very interesting read. Very slow read, but good. Not as fun as I expected given the title and subtitle, but still very interesting if you have an interest in fringe science as well as basic biology or physiology.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    This was a real mixed bag. Some chapters were absolutely fascinating, while others I found myself skimming through with no real interest. I don't really know how to feel about it. I've learned some new fun facts for my next trivia night, I guess? This was a real mixed bag. Some chapters were absolutely fascinating, while others I found myself skimming through with no real interest. I don't really know how to feel about it. I've learned some new fun facts for my next trivia night, I guess?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Penguin Tummy

    an interesting read, not so much about zombies but more about re animation and cheating death. Weird facts and anecdotes make it a good read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashli

    Interesting read about real life science behind zombies!

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