Grunt, the latest work by Mary Roach, explores some of the more interesting bits of what keeps the military running. And those bits are even stranger than you'd expect, if you've read any of Roach's previous works.
With chapters like Second Skin, Sweating Bullets, and What Doesn't Kill You Will Make You Reek, Roach pokes around into some strange research and science being developed for and by the US military.
There's some really interesting information here, scratching the surface of what needs to go into making new military uniforms (They need to be lightweight, breathe, be flame resistant, be wrinkle resistant, be stain resistant, and take dye well) and making the fabric better suited to cover all the various needs. Everything from keeping bomb propelled dirt out of wounds, keeping sand fleas off the skin, to wicking moisture from hot bodies and keeping heat in for cold bodies.
Chapters about how to protect soldiers from IED blasts, protecting their hearing, like (or lack thereof) on a submarine, and all filled with funny anecdotes from Roach that she learned firsthand by visiting various testing facilities and interviewing scientists, engineers, and the enlisted.
I've read everything Roach has previously written, so I went into it with some preconceived ideas of how the book would run, and I wasn't disappointed. As Roach says about herself, she's not a "spotlight operator", but a goober with a flashlight. So don't expect chapters about weapons, psychology, or military history. As Roach says, there are books already written about those subjects, and written better than she could write them. (Not knocking her, just paraphrasing what she writes in the introduction to the book.)
I know this won't be everyone's cup of tea. Roach has a very distinctive style of writing that turns some people off, it's very short and conversational. And she has a tendency to write about things that are rather...odd. But those are some of the things that make other readers come back for more of her books. And I'm one of those people. I give it a hearty four stars, and three thumbs up. Or maybe it's some of those fake spleens that are being used to train new combat medics...
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 7, 2016)