In “Stiff” by Mary Roach, the author discusses many topics revolving around human cadavers. These topics include practicing surgery on cadavers, the history of dissecting human cadavers, human decay, cadavers used as crash test dummies, studying bodies from a plane crash, cadavers used to test bullets and bombs, crucifixion experiments, live burial, searching for the soul, decapitation and head transplant, and cannibalism. Roach focuses a lot on the history of cadavers. She explained how bodies used to be stolen from their graves in order to be used in dissection. Cadavers were also used to test military weapons and techniques of torture. She also focuses on the current use of cadavers. Crash test dummies don’t always provide the results needed when creating a safe car, so cadavers are also used. Another use for cadavers is for practicing surgery on and for medical students to dissect and study. Roach explains that the way a body decomposes can give us a good idea of how a person died, when they died, and what conditions they were in. A lot of “fun facts” in the version of side-notes are used in the book along with a touch of humor.
I was not a fan of this book. Although it was packed with a ton of interesting facts, I had a hard time getting through the book. I found myself getting bored as the author often over-explained a topic. Her writing was also very morbid, although in all fairness, morbidity is difficult to avoid when discussing dead bodies. All negativity aside, I did appreciate the author’s occasional humor and how she didn’t sugar coat anything. She dove right into the nitty gritty topics and revealed all there is to know.