Slime is an ambiguous thing. It exists somewhere between a solid and a liquid. It inspires revulsion even while it compels our fascination. It is both a vehicle for pathogens and the strongest weapon in our immune system. Most of us know little about it and yet it is the substance on which our world turns. Slime exists at the interfaces of all things: between the different organs and layers in our bodies, and between the earth, water, and air in the environment. It is often produced in the fatal encounter between predator and prey, and it is a vital presence in the reproductive embrace between female and male.
In this groundbreaking and fascinating book, Susanne Wedlich leads us on a scientific journey through the 3 billion year history of slime, from the part it played in the evolution of life on this planet to the way it might feature in the post-human future. She also explores the cultural and emotional significance of slime, from its starring role in the horror genre to its subtle influence on Art Nouveau. Slime is what connects Patricia Highsmith's fondness for snails, John Steinbeck's aversion to hagfish, and Emperor Hirohito's passion for jellyfish, as well as the curious mating practices of underwater gastropods and the miraculous functioning of the human gut. Written with authority, wit and eloquence, Slime brings this most nebulous and neglected of substances to life.
Originally published in German in 2019 as Das Buch vom Schleim.
Susanne Wedlich studied biology and political science in Munich and has worked as a writer in Boston and Singapore. She is currently a freelance science journalist for Der Spiegel, National Geographic and Spektrum der Wissenschaft. She lives in Munich.
"An enjoyably icky guide"
"Remarkable [...] [Wedlich] takes delight in the ooze, revels in the squidge, and brings it together in admirably well-organised form to create a rollicking read"
– Cal Flyn, Prospect
"Rich and strange [...] a deft cultural history of the idea of slime as well as an up-to-the-minute exegesis of its science"
– Daily Telegraph
"Packed with disarming facts [...] Wedlich is a modest and understated guide"
"[A] revolutionary reading of slime: this magical, necessary and yet disgusting substance is a cultural artefact [...] Thanks to Ayça Türkoglu's smooth, almost poetic translation, this innovative book shows us that, with the right guidance, it is quite possible to find wonder in this mesmeric substance"
– Kate Simpson, TLS
"Susanne Wedlich is your smart and genial guide through the curious realms of natural goop, how we think of it, treat it and need it. An illuminating and eloquent story of slime, it will leave you appreciating in whole new ways the sticky stuff that covers our world, inside and out"
– Helen Scales, marine biologist and author of The Brilliant Abyss
"[...] To say that this is a fascinating story of a neglected subject does not really do justice to it. It is a well-researched and surprisingly genial encounter with this oozy, sticky world, written with a journalist’s sharp eye for a good story. Even so, you may, like me, prefer to read a bit at a time, and probably not before mealtimes."
– Peter Marren, British Wildlife 33(4), February 2022