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Insightful, comprehensive, but no introductory book. Printed in quite small fonts
on 6 January 2016
The title "Power, Sex, Suicide" is catching and the subtitle ambitious (Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life), but that's really what the book is about: mitochondria, tiny organelles dealing with energy inside the eukaryotic cells of all the plants, animals, fungi and algae. Starting from their probable origin, the authors explains what Mitochondria do, how they do it, what their presence in the eukaryotic cell has implied for the development of complex life forms with sexual reproduction, and that age and die.
The language is clear, the occasional jargon explained, the style is as lively as this complex and rather technical subject allows.
This is a wonderfully wide-ranging book. Unfortunately, that very quality might be what makes it a trifle too challenging for those who, like me, have little knowledge of general biology. In addition, I found it difficult to extract key ideas from the generous flow of information and from the succession of scientific theories that have proved wrong or incomplete, swept away by new discoveries. In other words, this is probably not the right book to start with.
Even if I finally decided to give up (for now!) because I didn't have the prerequisites to fully enjoy this book, I recommend it to the interested reader who has a better knowledge of biology (and perhaps also chemistry). This book is also an enthusiastic testimony to scientific research being an ongoing process, with temporary certainties leading to further questioning.
Just a note about this specific edition of "Power, Sex, Suicide" (OUP, 2009): the book is printed in very small, tight fonts, with reduced space line. I sometimes had to use my finger not to skip lines. The captions of the (rare) graphics and the occasional footnotes are even smaller. The original 2005 edition might be more reader-friendly.