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 Bitetackles 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 makingJurassic Parka reality by replicating a dinosaur from fossilized DNA? As our fears evolve, so do our monsters, andMedusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bitecharts the rise of the ultimate beasts, humans themselves.
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.
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October 23, 2012
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