Roach, Mary. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War.

NY: Norton, 2016.

Roach has become known for her popular science journalism which combine a dorky sense of humor with an investigative journalist’s endless curiosity. She likes short, punchy titles and her subject matter often is not for the squeamish: The first book of hers I read was Stiff, about cadavers.

This one is about the U.S. military’s use of 21st-century technology — not for weapons as such, but for all the huge number of other purposes to which it is being put for the benefit of American soldiers and sailors, especially in the effort to keep them alive and healthy. And if they are injured, the government goes to great technological lengths to rehabilitate them and to provide replacement parts.

Each chapter addresses a different subject, most of them related: The replacement of foam earplugs — which reduce the sounds you want to hear as well as those you don’t — with suppressive headphones with comms built in. (Hearing loss is a major problem these days among those who have been in combat.) Then there’s the relatively new problem of compression injuries caused by IEDs beneath a vehicle, compared to old-war lateral explosions. And fire-retardant clothing for tank crews — expensive, but each additional second of protection matters. And better shark repellent for SEALs. There’s even a chapter on “diarrhea as a threat to national security.”

Roach’s style is clear and straightforward and even vets who have been out of uniform for a couple of decades will find much here to interest as well as entertain them.

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Published in: on 1 March 2017 at 7:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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