Welcome to military research as viewed through the eyes of America's funniest science writer. Grunt is Roach's sixth book of oddball exploration, and it's a swift and engrossing romp through topics that few would treat with anything other than grim solemnity — penis repair, for instance. But Roach has a knack for making the horrific fascinating, fueled by delightfully nutty curiosity and a slightly off-center perspective ... Altogether, it's quite a performance. She's treading on near-sacred ground when she takes on the lives of those who put themselves in harm's way for their country. And watching her pull this off left me a little breathless. She manages to convey both respect for the soldiers and humor, often by making herself the punch line ... No other nonfiction writer so consistently manages to be both hilarious and informative. Even when she makes us utterly squeamish.
As meticulously researched, beautifully written, and disturbingly funny as her previous books, Grunt examines the science behind war, as well as the researchers who are leading the charge in these state-of- the-art developments. Roach’s prose is a triumph — an engaging blend of anecdote, research, and reflection ... Roach describes herself as 'the goober with the flashlight,' but she’s the most courageous — and empathetic — science writer we’ve got. A master of synthesis and scene, she unpacks subjects that on their surface might seem boring, disgusting, outrageous, emotionally charged, or morally suspect and infuses them with insight, humor, and humanity.
[Roach's] MO is to parachute into a foreign field, gamely undertake tasks beyond her ability and report back to us her research, observations and experiences from the point of view of a self-deprecating but sensible everyperson...The power of sections early on in the book caused me to question the overall structure, as the later chapters, about subjects like odor research and shark repellent, seem too discursive with too little at stake in the aftermath. In general I found the chapters to be more like discrete magazine stories, albeit very funny and informative ones, than parts that make up a greater narrative whole. Roach nevertheless is able to tiptoe through dangerous ground — that of potentially trivializing warfare with her signature humor — with some dexterity, celebrating military doctors, scientists, their patients and their fields of study while providing enough laughs to perhaps make a reader cough up — what else? — a bolus.