Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear
Saturday, Dec 17, 2016
Margee Kerr, author of Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear, and also the reader of the audiobook, is a sociologist who studies fear. Using herself as a guinea pig, and taking part in activities as varied as riding roller coasters, walking through haunted houses, taking part in paranormal investigations, and visiting Japan's notorious "suicide forest," Kerr explains what happens to the body and the mind when we take part in scary activities, or daredevil adventures. She also explores the psychology of thrill-seeking--why do some people seek out experiences many others regard as terrifying? Why do those same people enjoy being scared? Aside from writing and speaking about her studies to disseminate her findings, Kerr also makes real-world use of them in making The Basement, an interactive experience at Pittsburgh's ScareHouse, as frightening as possible.
Scream is not a dense theoretical work, by any means; it was certainly written with a general audience in mind. Perhaps Kerr was targeting the same kind of popular science fans who appreciate Mary Roach's witty, yet informative approach. Unfortunately for Kerr, the results she achieves here aren't nearly as entertaining. I did enjoy hearing about her various adventures, but sometimes the explanations that she gave for what was happening at a particular point seemed too shallow, not terribly insightful, and sometimes shoehorned in. I think I would have liked hearing more about her experiences with fewer attempts to explain the "science" behind what was happening. The best section, at the end of the book when she explains how she uses science to make The Basement the scariest event it can possibly be, was far too short. In fact, I hope she's developing an entire book based on that research because it was fascinating.
Finally, I'm not usually a fan of audiobooks, but I do like it when authors read their own works. In this case, I think Kerr's own voice worked both for and against the quality of the audiobook. Kerr is clearly not a professional voice artist, and while she has a pleasant voice, her delivery was a bit flat and monotonous at times. On the other hand, since most of the book is in fact actually about her, hearing it in her own voice made it more engaging and helped me develop a more detailed picture of what she is like.