grunt * n. informal a low-ranking soldier At a converted movie studio amputee actors prepare army medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds, while at a base in East Africa diarrhoea threatens national security. Beyond weapons and strategy, this is about the other side of war - how scientists protect soldiers from panic, exhaustion, heat and noise. Setting about her task with infectious enthusiasm, the incomparable Mary Roach sniffs archival World War II stink bombs, tests earplugs in a simulated war zone with the Marine Corps and burns the midnight oil with the sleep-deprived crew of a nuclear submarine. Speaking to the scientists and the soldiers, she learns about everything from life-changing medical procedures such as testicular transplants to more esoteric innovations like firing dead chickens at fighter jets. Engrossing, insightful and laugh-out-loud funny, Grunt is an irresistible ride to the wilder shores of modern military life.
'Fascinating...The book is a treasure trove of unorthodox thinking and experimentation when faced with the challenge of war...Roach gives a memorable starting point into the topic that leaves readers wanting more.' New York Journal of Books 'Roach's prose is a triumph...A master of synthesis and scene, she unpacks subjects that on their surface might seem boring, disgusting, outrageous, emotionally charged, or morally suspect and infuses them with insight, humor, and humanity.' Boston Globe 'The unflagging enthusiasm in her books, the raw happiness that bounces off the pages, isn't the sort of thing that can be faked.' Seattle Review of Books 'Mostly...she plays things for laughs, and the raw material is irresistible. Take the guys who fire grocery-store chickens at jets on a runway (to study bird strikes). Or the astonishing World War II-era research into disseminating horrible stinks on a massive scale, as a way to demoralize enemy troops. Not to mention the blast-proof underwear.' Seattle Times '[Roach] approaches her craft with a curious mind and a humorous bent, translating high science into a highly enjoyable read.' Publishers Weekly 'A must read for fans of Roach and for those who relish learning about the secret histories of everyday things.' Library Journal, starred review 'Roach joins Malcolm Gladwell and Steven Levitt in making a career of turning serious research on oddball subjects into bestsellers.' Kirkus 'Roach lightens the scene with her snarky sense of humour and sharp interviewing skills to make uptight military personnel loosen up and share entertaining anecdotes.' Dallas News 'Our most consistently entertaining science journalist wanders into the 'corners and crannies' of military technology. Roach goes where other writers wouldn't dare (witness her classic take on cadavers, STIFF), here eyeing 'the parts no one makes movies about-not the killing but the keeping alive." And her search produces images-a kind of technopoetry-that are hard to forget; a cannon firing chickens into airplanes, urethra replacement surgery, a "brief history of stink bombs."' O Magazine 'A mirthful, informative peek behind the curtain of military science.' Washington Post 'From the ever-illuminating author of Bonk and Stiff comes an examination of the science behind war. Even the tiniest minutiae count on the battlefield, and Roach leads us through her discoveries in her inimitable style.' Elle 'A rare literary bird, a bestselling science writer...Roach avidly and impishly infiltrates the world of military science...[she] is exuberantly and imaginatively informative and irreverently funny, but she is also in awe of the accomplished and committed military people she meets.' Booklist, starred review 'She writes exquisitely about the excruciating while also displaying supreme attunement to the oddness of the subculture she's writing about.' Chicago Tribune 'Mary Roach is one of the best in the business of science writing...She takes readers on a tour of the scientists who attempt to conquer the panic, exhaustion, heat, and noise that plague modern soldiers.' Brooklyn Magazine 'Nobody does weird science quite like [Roach], and this time, she takes on war. Though all her books look at the human body in extreme situations (sex! space! death!), this isn't simply a blood-drenched affair. Instead, Roach looks at the unexpected things that take place behind the scenes.' Wired 'Tremendously entertaining, wildly informative and vividly written.' LA Times 'Extremely likeable...and quick with a quip...[Roach's] skill is to draw out the good humour and honesty of both the subjects and practitioners of these white arts among the dark arts of war.' San Francisco Chronicle 'Brilliant.' Science 'Covering these topics and more, Roach has done a fascinating job of portraying unexpected, creative sides of military science.' New York Post
Mary Roach is the New York Times bestselling author of several popular science books. She has written for the Guardian, Wired, BBC Focus, GQ and Vogue. She lives in California.