Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Nevermore: Diagnosing Giants, Zealot, Seduction and The Ape House
Diagnosing Giants: Solving the Medical Mysteries of Thirteen Patients Who Changed the World by Philip A. Mackowiak is a fascinating look at the cause of death of thirteen people in history. Each chapter takes up the case of an individual, describes the circumstances of the times, and then details the person’s condition, including medical history of family members, if known. Dr. Mackowiak makes his diagnosis. The twist is that the patient isn’t identified until the end of the chapter, though many readers will realize who it is long before. The result is a fascinating examination from a unique perspective. In some cases, the author offers some speculation as to outcome if more modern treatments had been available as well as some theories as to why events unfolded as they did. Director Jud Barry thought the book was entertaining and fun, and it ended up going home with another Nevermore reader.
Zealot by Reza Aslan made another appearance. The book has been discussed several times in Nevermore even before anyone had a chance to read it because of an interview with the author, who is of Iranian heritage. The book is a biography of Jesus of Nazareth that attempts to examine the man instead of the myth. Our reader thought the controversy was unfortunate, and that it took the focus off of the actual content of the book.
Seduction by M.J. Rose has mythologist Jac L’Etoile come to the Jersey—the island off the coast of France, that is—to investigate an artifact with possible connections to the Druids. While there, she becomes involved with another incident from the island’s past: Victor Hugo used to hold séances there in a desperate attempt to contact his deceased daughter. Jac’s host believes that there’s a lost transcript to one of those sessions, one in which Hugo makes contact with someone from “the other side.” Our reviewer enjoyed the book, especially the Celtic history. Others have been more taken with the Hugo plotline. This is the fifth book in the Reincarnationist series.
In Sara Gruen’s The Ape House, primate researcher Isabel understands her bonobos better than she understands humans. John Thigpin, a reporter for a tabloid, visits Isabel and her charges, watching as they communicate with sign language. When the lab is bombed, Isabel is injured and the apes escape. From there, Gruen indulges in a bit of social satire as she explores themes such as animal rights and what it means to be human. Our reader thought her previous book, Water for Elephants, was the superior novel though she enjoyed this one as well. She said it was a bit slow at the start, but that Gruen is a great storyteller.