Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Spook by Mary Roach

by Mary Roach

The best-selling author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers now trains her considerable wit and curiosity on the human soul. What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?" In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.

I have to admit, this one was slow going for me. There were bits and bobs along the way that were fascinating (and I flew through those chapters), but I think the fact that Roach seemed to think this was all hokum herself made this book dull when compared to books like Stiff.
There seemed to be a lot more by way of techno-babble, I'm not sure if this was due to the lack of legitimate scientific findings in the realm of there being an afterlife (other than the resounding "No, there doesn't seem to be one" that usually was what the evidence pointed to)... or if it was because Roach herself is a skeptic, so chose to focus on things that gave more substantial output than peoples feelings and experiences.

I'm not saying this book isn't worth reading, it still has quite a few interesting ideas to present the reader with, but it was definitely a slower read for me than Stiff.

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