Science writer Mary Roach is making a nice career out of comic explanations of subjects that might otherwise make her audience uneasy. Her two previous books were Stiff : the curious lives of human cadavers and Spook : science tackles the afterlife.
Her research takes her back to the Napoleonic era, through modern surgery, CAT and PET scans, involving thousands of faceless volunteers, pigs, monkeys, porcupines and more. We learn about monkey gland transplants, Masters and Johnson, and the rickety framework on which pheromone research is built. Roach finds herself wired to instruments measuring her responses, and even recruits what must be the most understanding husband on earth for a session in an MRI.
Like Stephen King, Roach is not above going for the occasional gross-out, but she’s mostly interested in educating us, and entertaining us in the process.