Timothy C. Winegard's The Mosquito is as wildly entertaining as any epic narrative out there ... The Mosquito is an extremely well-researched work of narrative nonfiction that tells the story of the world through the lens of the role that mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illnesses have played in it ... The writing is engaging, and Winegard masterfully weaves historical facts and science to offer a shocking, informative narrative that shows how who we are today is directly linked to the mosquito ... an outstanding book that reshapes our past under a new lens — and helps explain some baffling events ... chilling.
Winegard marches forward from antiquity to the modern day, showing how mosquitoes have repeatedly upended history ... Winegard isn’t afraid of sweeping explanations, but his enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of him ... Not every last event in history traces back to bugs ... Winegard’s enthusiasm trips up his prose sometimes, too ... Still, The Mosquito is one of those (compound-) eye-opening books that permanently shift your worldview. Every time I read about ancient battles from now on, I’ll always wonder how much credit the generals deserve and how much the mosquitoes do. This isn’t a flattering view of history — reducing our Great Men and Women to secondary roles. But it’s probably more accurate.
...[a] sprawling new book ...It turns out that, if you’re looking for them, the words 'mosquitoes,' 'fever,' 'ague,' and 'death' are repeated to the point of nausea throughout human history ... There’s a long tradition of history books that profess to explain the world through singular factors: salt or cod or the color blue. The Mosquito suffers from the necessary myopia of the genre (in addition to some florid writing, repetition, and digressions through blockbuster movies and the Western Civ highlight reel) ...[Wineguard's] argument that mosquitoes are responsible for the Magna Carta and, therefore, modern democracy is a cascade of contingencies ... Winegard doesn’t need these double-jointed reaches to persuade us of the hidden influence mosquitoes have had in shaping history and creating the world that we know today.
This book is well-suited for those who enjoy popular history, with Winegard writing an engaging account of the mosquito’s impact on the broader world ... However, there are times when I felt like I was coming to the end of a chapter because it read like it was wrapping up only for me to find pages of new information before the chapter’s end - almost as if I were reading a mid-chapter summary. But Winegard has written a generally fascinating account of humanity’s deadly relationship with the mosquito, and we are reminded that the mosquito is just as much a threat today as it was in the past. After finishing this book, the reader’s feelings of disgust toward the mosquito will be reinforced but perhaps also accompanied by a new begrudging respect for the small but without a doubt deadliest predator of the human species.
It’s an ambitious book ... This book, [Winegard's] first for a popular audience, can’t be accused of being stuffy ... Mr. Winegard presents a convincing argument ... Other writers more measured and expert have covered pieces of this ground many times over ... Still, Mr. Winegard offers an encompassing millennia-long tale that has the virtue of interlacing human hubris and empire-building with the world-shaping influence of an insect ... The author makes some sloppy errors ... The book is also peppered with awful prose ... Nevertheless, what The Mosquito lacks in literary merit it makes up for in gusto, interest and scope.
A reader can forgive Winegard all the jaunty pop-culture allusions, the bad puns, the unnecessary footnotes, the overheated compound adjectives ...and the proclivity toward repeated clichés...because his voice is amiable and his subject is huge. His book is charmingly ambitious. More disappointing than the small infelicities is his choice to neglect, almost entirely, the scientific dimension of mosquitoes ... His book suggests, in fact, that he’s not much interested in mosquitoes. He’s not much interested in telling one kind from another. He’s not much interested in Plasmodium falciparum, the malarial parasite that travels in female Anopheles mosquitoes and has caused most of those millions, those billions, of human deaths ... [There] are intriguing and potentially consequential scientific mysteries, which Winegard doesn’t choose to tackle. His interests are military and political history, sketched with General Anopheles as bugbear. We’re supposed to grant an author his choice of subject, but from a book titled The Mosquito we might expect more illumination of mosquitoes ... Still, Winegard’s The Mosquito is a rich trove of information—encyclopedic, in fact, telling us many things that we don’t know and many others that we already do ... But after all its treetop-level surveying of ancient history and old military campaigns, it comes down to ground level and more fully to life around the point where Benito Mussolini decides to drain those Pontine Marshes ... His book is indeed quite a war story, with one heroic combatant and one villainous enemy, but Earth’s history writ from the mosquito side would look much different.
In Winegard’s punchy presentation, humankind has long been locked in deadly conflict with the bug ... There are better books on malaria—notably, Sonia Shah’s The Fever from 2010—but Winegard’s peppy style, and some aggressive marketing, have made his a bestseller ... Winegard is a Canadian-American military historian: the notion of mosquitoes as an enemy army comes naturally. So too do the passages of history he selects to illustrate the role of mosquito-borne disease in shaping world history ... Winegard isn’t wrong to see the mosquito as an actor in military history, but there’s a case for thinking about it in the context of environmental history and political history too.
Winegard doesn’t add new insight to this history, but his account makes it accessible for readers of natural history ... The bulk of the book, however, is little more than a potted summary of world history, with an emphasis on military campaigns, one of Winegard’s enthusiasms. Though the work begins and ends well, Winegard repeats the same points often, is prone to digression, and his deployment of footnotes is heavy-handed, sometimes jejune ... There’s room for a popular history on this fascinating topic, but readers should be cautioned that this study is uneven.
Winegard’s drawn-out survey of history covers ground that is largely well known ... The author does uncover some lesser-known moments, however, such as the malaria research conducted by Chinese scientists during the Vietnam War, and he’s good on why some human populations seem more vulnerable to mosquito-borne illnesses than others. Overall, the book is serviceable but less fluent than Sonia Shah’s The Fever, David DeKok’s The Epidemic, Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker’s Deadliest Enemy, and other popular accounts of all the malign things that await us out in the open air. And readers could probably have done without the anemic valediction to the fanged female at the close ... An intermittently interesting but overlong book that is not likely to make much of a buzz.
... an adequate, Western-centric world history focused on the part played by mosquitoes and mosquito-borne disease ... Winegard then marches forward through history, highlighting events (generally wars) he sees as affected by the insects. When armies suffer enormous casualties due to disease, as they did in ancient Greece or colonial wars in the Caribbean, this connection is obvious and easily acceptable. Other connections are more tenuous, as when Winegard seems to give mosquitoes some credit for the Magna Carta. Further weak points include anthropomorphizing references to the subject which cast mosquitoes as mercenaries, generals, or allies in human conflicts, and occasional indulgence in alliteration ... Despite some flaws, this works as a reasonable general introduction to one miniscule animal’s outsize effect on human history.