This “fact-filled and amusing trek through nature’s dark side” (Kirkus Reviews) reveals the fascinating, weird, and often perverted ways that Mother Nature fends only for herself.
It may be a wonderful world, but as Dan Riskin (host of the Animal Planet’s TV show Monsters Inside Me) explains, it’s also a dangerous, disturbing, and disgusting one. At every turn, it seems, living things are trying to eat us, poison us, use our bodies as their homes, or have us spread their eggs. In Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You, Riskin is our tour guide through the natural world at its most gloriously ruthless.
Using the seven deadly sins as a road map, Riskin offers dozens of jaw-dropping examples that illuminate how brutal nature can truly be. From slothful worms that hide in your body for up to thirty years to wrathful snails with poisonous harpoons that can kill you in less than five minutes to lustful ducks that have orgasms faster than you can blink, these fascinating accounts reveal the candid truth about “gentle” Mother Nature’s true colors.
Riskin’s passion for the strange and his enthusiastic expertise bring Earth’s most fascinating fauna and flora into vivid focus. Through his adventures—which include sliding on his back through a thick soup of bat guano just to get face-to-face with a vampire bat, befriending a parasitic maggot that has taken root in his head, and coming to grips with having offspring of his own—Riskin makes unexpected discoveries not just about the world all around us but also about the ways this brutal world has shaped us as humans and what our responsibilities are to this terrible, wonderful planet we call home.
In a thoroughly engaging if somewhat simplistic survey of nature, Riskin, co-host of Discovery Canada's Daily Planet and host of Animal Planet's Monsters Inside Me, makes it abundantly clear that there's no sense in turning to the natural world for advice about leading a moral life. "Nature," as he notes, "has no place in discussions of social justice." Indeed, using the Seven Deadly Sins as a touchstone, he describes numerous ways in which individuals of a wide range of species act in morally reprehensible ways. Murder, torture, rape, theft, and virtually any other act imaginable except for selflessness can be considered common in the natural world. What lessons, he wonders, might we learn from an Amazonian toad that regularly practices necrophilia? While his examples are often fascinating, his writing boarders on the sophomoric: "Plants have boy parts and girl parts, and they use those to make babies." Riskin is a close adherent of the "selfish gene" concept first advanced by Richard Dawkins, but his constant references to physical bodies as "meat robots" quickly wear thin. A little more substance would have provided a more meaningful context for all of Riskin's anecdotes.
What a fun ride. A great introduction to the vastness of evolutionary biology. Soooo interesting, and an easy read.
Best Book Ever
This was an awesome book. It was the perfect introduction to the world of biology.