Having written magazine articles on subjects like the buccaneer business model of Somali pirates and the dark side of overseas adoptions, Wired contributing editor Carney expands on time spent in India, Europe and America examining the illegal “red” marketplace for trafficked human body parts.
The author writes that “our appetite for human flesh is higher now than at any other time in history.” Though the trade may appear barbaric, it is commonplace in places like Egypt and the Philippines, and most transactions are handled—to an outsider, at least—altruistically. As a post-graduate anthropology student, the author taught for many years in southern India, and his unsympathetic initiation into the “body business” came at the expense of a young American student and suicide victim upon whose increasingly perishable corpse descended a variety of locals who insinuated “demands on what was left of her material self.” Elsewhere in India, Carney reports dramatic stories of a riverbank “bone factory” where 100 confiscated, grave-robbed human skulls might net $70,000 overseas, the atrocious for-profit kidnapping of children from city streets and orphanages and the contract-bound surrogate baby factories in Akanksha. A chapter on the latest advancements in the lucrative international brokers’ market for living-donor kidneys is as startling as one on genetic egg harvesting—in exchange for sperm, Swiss fertility specialists can “basically FedEx you a baby.” Less dour is the author’s affably detailed stint “guinea-pigging” for a clinical trial of a “rebranded Viagra” and selling his hair for auction. As Carney highlights the most egregious of criminal red markets hoping to expose and recriminalize them, he impartially balances that perspective with arguments for industry legalization and demystifies its seductive “free market solution.” Much akin to the work of Mary Roach, the result is a volume that lays bare the atrocities of the human flesh trade, reiterating the verity that “every corpse has a stakeholder.”Gruesomely fascinating.