John's Reviews > Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution

Life Ascending by Nick Lane
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's review
Nov 17, 10

Read from November 12 to 17, 2010

I could read clear writing 4 eva! I actually think that reading popular science prose effects my brain, all-be-it temporarily. For a while after I feel precise and lucid. I see things as components; bread, peanut butter, jam.
Unfortunately, the information contained therein is also fleeting. I found this out to my dismay when I was starting to explain some fascinating discoveries from this book about genes to Theo, and found I couldn't string a coherent sentence together. I lacked the active vocabulary. The very concepts, though completely understood while in the act of reading, proved gossamer-thin when converted into communicable sentences. Theo rolled his eyes and dived back into his bio homework.
Great book, despite my wooliness. Wonderfully, it ignores the sterile Creationist arguments, and just gets on with the job of explaining the latest evolutionary science. It's structured cleverly. It begins with life on Earth, the birth of bacteria and proceeds through cells, genes, more complex structures, and ends with consciousness and death. There's a wonderful chapter devoted to the "eye", it intuitively seeming designed by some agency other than evolution, but on examination found to be much weirder than any god could have imagined.
The chapter on DNA sort of lost me; it does assume quite a bit of knowledge on behalf of the reader, but most of the chapters were accessible.
This book just one some biggy-big prize for science writing in England (it's why I'm reading it) so it must be good, so there.
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