Geneticist Gabriel Dover's new book is, as its name suggests, an imaginary correspondence with Charles Darwin which brings Darwin (and of course the reader) up to speed on the recent developments in modern genetics and on the implications of these developments for evolutionary theory.
The correspondence format allows Dover to regulate the pace and depth of the discussion and to anticipate and respond to questions readers might reasonably be expected to ask As Dover put it, "I thought it might prove a useful way to take you the readers from simple beginnings to complex understanding without resorting to jargon, while permitting the two correspondents to engage in a degree of spontaneity and personal asides." The opening chapter and the glossary of technical terms should help the reader negotiate the difficult passages while Dover's aggressive and often amusing prose style helps sustain the reader's interest. Rather than dazzling or seducing with brilliant metaphors, he marshals evidence with clarity, economy and wit. His frequent digressions on, for instance, Manchester United's miraculous triumph in the dying minutes of the European cup final, or on discussions between Sir Isaac Newton and a contemporary physicist on natural selection and alternative universes, or his near complete contempt for Richard Dawkins, or his love of poetry and music make the book entertaining, provocative and uplifting rather than just educative. Specialists should read this book as a matter of course and novices beginning their education here shouldn't be out of their depth.--Larry Brown
An imagined correspondence with Charles Darwin, explaining to him the breakthroughs of modern genetics and evolutionary biology, and stimulated by his uninformed but perceptive responses and questions.