DARK BANQUET by Bill Schutt

DARK BANQUET

Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Schutt (Biology/C.W. Post Coll.) enthusiastically surveys the world of sanguivores and hematophages.

That’s “blood eaters” to the layperson, and if the vampire species doesn’t get you, then the leeches and chiggers and bedbugs and mites and ticks likely will—not unto death, perhaps, but very much unto distraction. And if it’s the candiru that swims its way up your urethra, there to lodge its spines and gorge away, then best of luck in your struggle. Schutt explains the history and metabolism of these unpleasant critters, including their fossil and cultural records. He details the nasty group of diseases they transmit: bubonic plague, rabies, scrub typhus, tick vectors. Almost worse than these real ailments is delusional parasitosis, “a condition in which the victim believes that tiny biting or bloodsucking creatures are crawling over his or her body.” Though the author enjoys extolling these sensational aspects, at the same time he painlessly—rather like vampire bats, whose nip is rarely felt—introduces scientific material such as ontogeny, phylogeny and heterochrony. He takes critical detours when necessary (“So what is blood, exactly?”) and displays a pleasingly corny sense of humor: “Leeches had always given me the creeps. In fact they were right up there with clowns and televangelists.” Schutt even manages to make a case for their existence as food sources, pollinators and insectivores, not to mention the beneficent use contemporary medicine makes of leeches. Then he dangles a few additional bloodthirsty beasts, including hookworms, assassin bugs and the vampire finch that feeds on the blue-footed booby. Bloodthirsty readers may well find their appetite whetted for more.

A natural history of bloodsuckers that shines in gory glory.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-307-38112-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Harmony
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2008




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