Home / Books / Book Reviews / Book Review: Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan

Book Review: Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest1Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan is a cheeky historical trip through many of the familiar monsters that go bump in the night. This book may be a bit light for the full-time scientist or cryptozoologist, but for readers wanting to know more about the history of monsters, it is an amusing read.

Kaplan is a science writer who looks at monsters from aliens to zombies, with a lot of our familiar old monster friends included in the mix. Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite also shares insights into why we continue to scare the daylights out of ourselves, and why we do so in a most willing manner and explains some of the dark reasons behind the variety of creatures including Medusa, the golem, HAL 9000, and dragons.

Kaplan explains the introduction of super-sized lions and tigers and bears to humans finding fossilized bones and amalgamated creatures like the griffin from bones found in tar pits.

Kaplan stays on topic with a good scientific approach to dissecting the monsters and determining if they may have come from natural science or history, and he makes the science fun.

There is a light-hearted feel to learning about monsters through history and Kaplan has amusing tales, jokes and puns, but he makes the sometimes unwieldy topics of science and history entertaining.

Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite is a recommended read if you are looking for a delightfully engaging — if somewhat light — look at the origins and evolution of monsters and how their appeal remains fresh.

Powered by

About Kathleen Riley-Daniels

Adventurer, Photographer, Author, Artist, Cooking, Genealogy, Dogs, Horses, Marketing and oh so much more.
  • David Mowers

    Kaplan fails to take into account astronomy and celestial phenomena which the Greek mythologized. Most of the book is quite interesting, he missed the bones of the 25ft tall giant-sized prehistoric ape that were found, though his shtick seems limited to only natural possibilities, those that lived and/or were misunderstood.

    My case in point is the Chimera, head of a lion and a goat with the tail of a serpent. If you go back to logogrammic writing times you will find that the ancient symbol for motion was a snake. This symbol becomes the letter ‘S’ but when it does it also forms two significant astronomical symbols, ‘6’ and ‘8’ with eight doubling as the sign for infinity.

    The Sun’s path, daily and annually, when thought of three dimensionally, is a ‘6,’ while the, “heavens,” are an ‘8,’ as the earth’s wobble cause stars to move as if the earth was a floating boat in a celestial sea over time or the, “heavens,” are a black serpent with the stars plastered upon it. The Sphinx is literally the Zodiac anthropomorphized into a deity made from the parts of the constellations combined which is what the Chimera is. It is described in Sumerian myth as separate monsters of Tiamat’s army but in such a way as-if they are a combined force ie: one.

    Therefore I propose that what we have is a mythology of Precession; the time-order starts, as the Greeks stated, in Aries, the ram or goat, the Lion or Leo starts the year in Spring as the Egyptians and Sumerians charted it and they all ride on a giant serpent (the snaking motion of the heavens annually) whose, “tail,” ends in Draco. People miss the fact that ancient peoples attempted to think abstractly and three dimensionally by making art of the myth and thereby altering the myth to reflect the art as a possibility to why the myth changes over time into things that make more sense or better fit the cosmogony.