kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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book review

Like snakes? Of course you do. What's better than walking through the woods turning over rotting logs, lifting up flat rocks, and watching along the sides of dirt roads on sunny days?

Around here we're reading Mean and Lowly Things by Kate Jackson. Which is mighty awesome.

The reason that scientists don't know much about the reptiles and amphibians of the Congo, we learn in Kate Jackson's gripping Mean and Lowly Things is because it's a very difficult place to live and most scientists would rather work in places less remote. As a new Ph.D., Jackson doesn't have much of a choice; she can go to the Congo and find snakes on her own, or she can play second, third, or fourth fiddle to some other researcher in a place with running water. Choosing the road less traveled seems to have made all the difference because Jackson turns out to be made of exactly the mettle needed for surviving in climates of perpetual damp, heat, bureaucracy, poverty, and, oh yeah, maggots, biting ants, malaria, sleeping sickness, foot long millipedes and of, course, cobras.

Reminiscent of Raymond Ditmar's very out of print Snake Hunter's Holiday Jackson plunges into the submerged and remote forests of the Congo with a resolve and story telling ability that keep readers on the edge of their seats. Whether cheering along as she captures venomous snakes, or cringing as she describes discovering that maggots are growing under her skin*, either way, it's a gripping and enjoyable book that makes you appreciate those people for who intentionally choose the difficult path, try harder when things seem hopeless, and persevere.

Two thumbs up.

* Upon the discovery that maggots are, indeed, growing under her skin, her first thought is "I should let one of these hatch so we can find out what species of fly laid them." For that, Dr. Jackson get's the gold geek star.

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