Medusa's gaze and vampire's bite : the science of monsters /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Kaplan, Matt, 1977-
Edition:1st Scribner hardcover ed.
Imprint:New York : Scribner, c2012.
Description:x, 244 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Subject:Monsters -- History.
Animals, Mythical -- History.
Dangerous animals -- Folklore -- History.
Animals, Mythical.
Dangerous animals.
Format: Print Book
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Hidden Bibliographic Details
ISBN:9781451667981 (hardcover : alk. paper)
1451667981 (hardcover : alk. paper)
9781451667998 (pbk. : alk. paper)
145166799X (pbk. : alk. paper)
9781451668001 (ebook)
1451668007 (ebook)
Notes:Includes bibliographical references (p. 221-233) and index.
Summary:"We all know 'there's no such thing as monsters,' but our imaginations tell us otherwise. From the mythical beasts of ancient Greece to the hormonal vampires of the Twilight saga, monsters have captivated us for millennia. Matt Kaplan, a noted science journalist and monster-myth enthusiast, employs an entertaining mix of cutting-edge research and a love of lore to explore the history behind these fantastical fictions and our hardwired obsession with things that go bump in the night. Ranging across history, Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite tackles the enduring questions that arise on the frontier between fantasy and reality. What caused ancient Minoans to create the tale of the Minotaur and its subterranean maze? Did dragons really exist? What inspired the creation of vampires and werewolves, and why are we so drawn to them? With the eye of a journalist and the voice of a storyteller, Kaplan takes readers to the forefront of science, where our favorite figures of horror may find real-life validation. Does the legendary Kraken, a squid of epic proportions, really roam the deep? Are we close to making Jurassic Park a reality by replicating a dinosaur from fossilized DNA? As our fears evolve, so do our monsters, and Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite charts the rise of the ultimate beasts, humans themselves"--Provided by publisher.
Review by Library Journal Review

Science journalist Kaplan sheds light on why people fear monsters, from the Calydonian Boar depicted on ancient Greek friezes to the creatures of films like Alien and Jurassic Park. He uses science and anthropology to make educated guesses about how figures like cyclopes, zombies, vampires, and dragons worked their way into humanity's collective imagination. Parents may find information here to dispel myths for fearful children (or, alternately, fearful adults); for example, according to Kaplan, the idea of zombies probably originated from a Haitian who ate a poisonous puffer fish, rendering him temporarily dead, at least in appearance. VERDICT Drawing on more science than Stephen T. Asma's On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears, this cultural history is ideal for skeptical readers or those who enjoy small but sweeping histories. While some of Kaplan's conjectures about the origins of monster folklore are farfetched, the book introduces many questions that readers will find valuable to the study of what people fear and why they fear it.-Erin Shea, Darien Lib., CT (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A delightfully serious--well, mostly--dissection of monsterland. Give a nod of welcome to our old friends: rukh and the Minotaur, Chimera and the Sphinx, Charybdis and the leviathan, griffin and the cockatrice, ghosts, demons, spirits, zombies, vampires, werewolves and HAL 9000. What a parade, and we clearly love them, for a goodly number have been around for centuries. However, asks science journalist Kaplan, why do we willingly scare ourselves? And from what dark materials did we fashion these golems and Medusa and dragons? Kaplan plumbs a wide array of possible natural explanations: the simple amplifications of lions, tigers, bears and boars; the mutations that cause extremes in animal appearance; the mixing of bones in tar pits and in the general fossil record (of which the griffin is a prime example). The author mostly stays on solid ground, taking the monsters apart to see whether they might have come from some sort of natural science or history. There are moments when he can be somewhat cute, overreaching for jokey asides or the dumb puns, but more often than not, he is on the path of scientific fun, deconstructing zombie brews, the behavioral ecology of vampires or the geological challenge of being buried alive. As for the evolutionary advantage: "Like lion cubs play-fighting in the safety of their den, monsters may be allowing threats to be toyed with in the safe sandbox of the imagination." The appeal of monsters never stales, and in Kaplan's hands, these characters shine.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Review by Kirkus Book Review