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review 2017-12-08 16:42
Make sure to read the footnotes
Science of the Magical: From the Holy Grail to Love Potions to Superpowers - Matt Kaplan

Science of the Magical: From the Holy Grail to Love Potions to Superpowers by Matt Kaplan is a compendium of magical anecdotes. (It would have to be with a mouthful of a title like that.) Kaplan organizes everything under different subsections which allows him to cover a lot of ground but as someone who has delved into a lot of this genre much of it was already known to me (or self-explanatory). My favorite thing about this book were the often hilarious footnotes which I think saved the book from becoming too overblown. For instance, while a lot of the book was informative and genuinely interesting it was marred by the author's writing 'voice' which came across as forced. It seemed like he was trying too hard to be 'cool' and 'relevant' and instead it was just grating. By the time the reader reaches the conclusion, you expect there to be some sort of overarching theme or lesson learned but Kaplan seems to almost have tacked it on at the very end in an almost halfhearted fashion. It doesn't so much as conclude as leave the reader feeling somewhat disappointed that it wasn't well-rounded. I don't want this to come out as overwhelmingly negative because if you're someone who hasn't read much on these topics then this would be a great jumping off point but for the more seasoned reader it's less of a revelation and more of a rehashing. If you want a book which is full of facts and historical anecdotes then you could do worse by picking up this book. 6/10

 

What's Up Next: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart with illustrations by Diana Sudyka (!)

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Slightly Foxed: Issues 54-57 and rereading (very slowly) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-09-23 09:28
Science of the Magical
Science of the Magical: From the Holy Grail to Love Potions to Superpowers - Matt Kaplan

This engaging scientific inquiry provides a definitive look into the elements of mystical places and magical objects—from the philosopher’s stone, to love potions to the oracles—from ancient history, mythology, and contemporary culture.

 

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't quite it, I guess.  I don't think it's the book's fault though; the writing was engaging and it's just what it says on the label: a look at all the ways our superstitions, myths, heroes and superheroes are so often rooted in science.  

 

Kaplan did his research (all of which is excellently documented in a Notes section at back) and when he speculates, he says he's speculating.  Some of the information is downright fascinating too (I had no idea ravens and wolves are so linked in nature).  If I was disappointed by anything in the book it's the casual assumption that you have to separate faith from science, but this is such a common misconception anymore I've come to expect it.

 

So, the book is good; I just didn't get sucked in the way I thought I would when I saw a book about two of my favourite subjects.  Was worth reading though.

 

I'm going a little off the beaten path and using this book for my Supernatural square in Halloween Book Bingo.

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review 2015-01-29 00:00
The Science of Monsters : The Origins of the Creatures We Love to Fear
The Science of Monsters : The Origins of the Creatures We Love to Fear - Matt Kaplan Interesting at first, then it got tedious.
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review 2014-06-13 18:01
See, there are these things called books . . .
Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite: The Science of Monsters - Matt Kaplan

The theme and thesis of this volume is to illustrate the science background or mysteries that gave rise to various myths and legends from pre history to modern times. Kaplan starts very strongly, but I found the second half of this book to be slightly weaker and less interesting than the first. This could be because I have read Paul Barber’s book on Vampires and death, a book that Kaplan draws on, but I honestly thought the alien chapter was really unnecessary.

 

                What are fascinating are the conditions that Kaplan makes between Hercules’ famous lion and actual animals that existed. The connection between fossils and tar pits with strange creatures like Medusa and the chimera is one such point. It is dealing with the ancient legends as well as those about dragons that are the book’s selling points.

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review 2013-03-24 00:00
Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite: The Science of Monsters
Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite: The Science of Monsters - Matt Kaplan I originally thought I would give this book 3 stars, but it got better as it went on. I think the author stretches a bit in his attempts to find a real world source for every aspect of every "monster," but he does a good job in looking at the fears that inspire them and also tracing them to their modern incarnations.
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