The past few years I have been working slowly but surely through the works of Mary Roach. I find her style to be intoxicating, even if her subjects seem a little outside my own personal interests. When announced that her latest book would be about the science of war I was immediately wondering how her light-hearted and comedy heavy style would work with this subject. Once I realized that she was, as usual, going to focus on the weird eddies of science and discovery. In her introduction, she refers to herself as “the goober with a flashlight stumbling into corners and crannies, not looking for anything specific but knowing when I’ve found it.”
Which is how I came to read and enjoy nearly three hundred pages about some of the research and work that goes into keeping our armed forces prepared, and how sometimes they wish we’d all prepare them a little less (seriously, the weights on the army standard armor are just… insane). Roach focuses on what dogs military personnel: panic, exhaustion, heat, noise, illness, injury, and introduces us to the people who work against these plagues.
It’s hard to pin down if I had a favorite section, or chapter, but I appreciated Roach’s approach of discussing things warts and all. For example, no one in the U.S. government seems to want to fund sexual therapy for soldiers returning with injuries to their sexual organs, but she is certainly going to highlight it, the need, and waggle her eyebrows for us all to get over our prudishness and think about quality of life.
I’m rating this one four stars, its everything good that she displayed in some of her previous books such as Packing for Mars and Gulp without the early mistakes in style that appear in Stiff (which is still a fascinating book that you should all read.)