6 May 2009
This review is from: The Rough Guide to Evolution (Rough Guide Science/Phenomena) (Paperback)If you're only going to purchase and read one book about Evolution, this has GOT to be the book. Pallen's great achievement is that he's been able to create a virtual encyclopaedia of information about Darwinian science, history and influence in a mere 340 pages. This does not mean that the treatment of any part of the subject is at all superficial; Pallen's great talent (aside from producing such clear and readable text) is his ability to get to the heart of the matter in such a direct and concise way. For the non-scientifically inclined reader this means that he/she can come to grips with these not so obvious concepts without what seems a long, confusing and tedious uphill grind. Nor is the excellent treatment of how the mechanisms of Evolution work done at the cost of less focus on the implications of Evolution on Philosophy, Politics, Religion, the Arts and even modern hip culture. Pallen brings to life the histories and character profiles of the great evolutionary scientists - Darwin himself, Mendel, Bill Hamilton, John Maynard Smith and many others, making the subject all the more human.
Pallen's treatment of the subject of the "science wars" of Creationism vs. Evolution and Religion vs. Science, where such an understanding is so necessary these days for a well-informed reader, is unparalleled in both clarity and conciseness. Pallen also provides many light-hearted Evolutionary diversions, e.g. a "top-10" evolutionary iPod playlist, evolution based games, entertainments, and one of the best reference reading guides around.
The book can be read "cover to cover" or even by just skipping about, without losing any understanding of the topic; indeed the book is an entirely enticing and tasty smorgasbord of information about this important and fascinating subject. The book is not just an excellent introductory read for the newcomer to the subject, even someone who have done some quite a lot of serious reading on the subject of Evolution is still certain to broaden, clarify or update his/her subject knowledge by reading Rough Guide. All-in-all a wonderful read by someone who not only writes well, but also an author who really knows and loves his entire subject.