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Mary Roach
An inside guide to the weird and brilliant science that helps protect soldiers from the panic, exhaustion, heat and noise of war. Mary Roach boldly goes where no scientific journalist has gone before to investigate the hidden science that protects the soldier on the battlefield. This is about the other adversaries of war – how to tackle the challenges of panic, exhaustion, and disease. At a converted movie studio actors prepare army medics for the shock and gore of combat, while at a base for anti terror operations in East Africa, diarrhoea threatens national security. From maggot debridement as a means of healing wounds to the ethics of testicular transplants. Mary Roach takes us on a roller-coaster ride, full of insights that fascinate as well as disgust.

The first few chapters of this book provide eye opening insights into the military , the US have qualified fashion designers to provide combat wear that is not only fit for purpose but is supposed to make the grunt feel more butch and ally , if that’s at all possible. The afore mentioned combat uniforms are washed together with a bag of ball bearings to see how they shape up, on this station a casual mention is made that in the laundry rooms ear defenders and rounds of ammo are often found . Talking of ear defenders it would appear that a lot of effort goes in to providing good quality protection which the operators rarely have time to stop and wear. Accordingly it seems that the majority of Special Forces troops are almost deaf! Ms Roach was shown a Humvee which was going to be used for aiding the design of a blast proof vehicle when she noted that it was fitted with neat coffee cup holders, only to be told by the 'Top' that “No ma'am, they are rifle holders“. There are a few of these quaint moments.

However then we get to sickness, damaged bodies and a section on penis transplants and it all gets serious and technical. Mary’s style in reporting back of these scientific breakthroughs is easy to read and engaging she has a great style and her astonishment at what she sees is transferred to the reader. This is a weird and peculiar book you won’t see its like often so I give it five mushrooms for top reporting.

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