The Red Market | Book Review

The Red Market, by Scott Carney

We live in a world where anything can be bought and sold. As the inventory list of allowable goods on the open market gets slimmer, the alternative shadow markets open up shop. Few goods and services are as disputed as the business of body parts – The Red Market is a book that takes a closer look on what is going on in the world of the flesh sales, bone factories, shady adoption agencies and much more.

Investigative journalist and author Scott Carney’s world view got expanded when one of his students died in India – Leading him down a rabbit hole deeper than expected. Those first stumbling steps pushed him further: Researching the subject, meeting the people that trade in human tissue, but perhaps more importantly: Those that sells different parts of their bodies

The authors own reflection on whats going on is a strength of the book. Every now and then Mr. Carney stops up the flow of text and gives you a piece of his mind. The doubts, the questioning of self is his companion. It is refreshing to follow the thought process of someone that is trying to make up his mind on a subject he is powerless to move in either direction – A very human thing to do. The afterword gives a more rigid answer as to where Scott Carney stands, but the journey there isn’t a straight line, nor an obvious one.

“International cabals of doctors and corruptible ethics boards have slowly transformed slums in Egypt, South Africa, Brazil and the Philippines into veritable organ farms. The dirty secret of the organ business is that there is no shortage of willing sellers” – Scott Carney

By weaving statistical numbers, life stories (both from the authors own life and those involved in the making of the book), and curious facts of how the different corners of the world tackle the need for human “spare parts” Scott Carney has created a page-turner of a book. It becomes a guilty pleasure of sorts after a while. Many of the things lined up is outright bad, but its hard to stop reading out of morbid fascination of the subject. If you are one of those people that enjoy serial-killer documentaries, this is probably a book you’d like to have on your bookshelf.

It is very hard to understand were we are without taking a look at how things were – Something Scott Carney has done an excellent job at curating for the reader. There is historical lessons inserted in every corner of the book that makes sense to put them in – Lessons of, for example, how before, when it was legal to purchase blood in India, there were trade unions, donor rights organizations and administrative systems in place to help out the transactions of the life giving fluid, just an echo of the black market dealings in shady stalls and back alleys of today.

“It doesn’t matter what our moral position is on the subject, bodies are unquestionably commodities. And yet they are uncomfortable ones. As a product, bodies aren’t assembled new in factories filled with sterile suited workers; rather they are harvested like used cars at scrap markets” – Scott Carney

Photo ID of Scott Carney when he was a test subject for clinical trials for a Viagra-variant.

Kidnapped kids sold to orphanages, the backside of the wig-industry, the female egg-harvesting practices on Cyprus, the “kidney village” in India and how some Buddhist monks get hold of their instruments made from bones are not pretty fairy tales that ends in a happy forever-afters and a nice ending song. But its reality. It happens right here, right now.

Red Market is a fine trampoline into the darker parts of whats happening in the world, a very approachable book that is easy to pick up, but extremely hard to put down once you started reading it – Captivating both in subject and style.

“Unlike, say, working in a sweatshop, providing accounting services, or engaging in prostitution, a test subject doesn’t have to do anything. The pharmaceutical companies are simply renting their bodies in order to study metabolic processes” – Scott Carney

Interested in getting a copy of the book and supporting Buy it over at Amazon!


  1. Parallel to this, I am reminded of a book by Lee Silver called Remaking Eden about genetic enhancement. The wealthy will be able to design their children while the rest of the population can’t afford it, creating virtually 2 species of humans.


  2. @Kim Broadie

    Isn’t this a sci-fi and movie theme ? Pretty sure this has been explored at depth by sci-fi but I don’t know where.


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