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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lively & interesting, if a little disjointed
I’ve been familiar with some of Adam’s work with the Guardian newspaper for a number of years, though this is the first book of his that I’ve actually read. It has to be noted that there are really two books here in one. The big trick the publishers pulled was to not put the two parts consecutively, but to flip one upside down and then putting them...
Published 5 months ago by S. Meadows

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2.0 out of 5 stars Like othe reviewers I found it difficult to read and ...
Like othe reviewers I found it difficult to read and rather laboured. The content is very interesting but the wrting is not gripping, like Richard Dawking's books. Adam is a great talker but sadly the writing is not so good. Quite frankly I don't think I am going to finish reading the whole book.
Published 20 days ago by Pincroft Wizard


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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended..., 14 April 2013
For those of us who stay awake at night asking ourselves impossible questions, this book provides some fascinating and well researched answers, as well as posing all sorts of other equally impossible questions all over again. Well written and clearly set out, Rutherford continues to prove his geeky credentials... glad I bought this book and would def recommend to others.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 11 May 2013
If I had a bright young teenager who wanted to find out about the universe and his place within it, I would ask him to read 4 books: A Brief History of Time, Thinking Fast and Slow, Orientalism, and this extraordinary book by Adam Rutherfood.

In the first half, "the origin of life", the author has set himself an ambitious task - interweave the entire history of life with the history of biology as a science in a seamless and novelistic narrative which can be understood by any well educated person. He achieves this task admirably. There is humour, sex, violence, a mix of pace and tone... The book starts with a dramatic "mise en scene" - the miraculous biological reaction of the human body to a paper cut - which grips the reader and engages them in a journey which leads them further and further back in time, past the birth of animals, past the birth of cells, past the birth of the language of DNA, to the very conditions which created life. And no novel would be complete without a pleasing ring-composition; so Rutherfood finished by delivering us back to the paper cut from which we began. Nor would it be complete without a moral. Rutherfood seeks throughout to build and reinforce his central thesis - we can now explain so convincingly how life might have spontaneously occurred from the conditions of our early planet, that explanations which rely on divine intervention are unnecessary and almost certainly wrong.

As someone who had a micro-biologist as a father, it is hard to determine to what extent the narrative of "the origin of life" would be easily followed in all its detail by someone unfamiliar with the workings of cells. Nevertheless, I find it hard to imagine a clearer explanation in little over 100 pages.

The "future of life" follows logically from the first half of the book, describing as it does the post evolutionary state in which we find ourselves - not because natural selection has stopped, but because it is likely to be outpaced by the progress caused by the genetic meddling of human scientists. This is the story of "synthetic biology", which has emerged as a trade from the basic research that produced the knowledge which Rutherfood has so carefully laid out in "the origins of life".

I have to say that I found this half of the book less gripping than the other, simply because Rutherfood has nothing like the same amount of material at his fingertips. Here he is describing the progress, and the barriers to that progress, which have sprung up in the last 20 years - the first attempts to create new life forms from scratch, and the army of concerned individuals who are trying to stand in their way. But while the results of this new science are still limited (a fact which Rutherfood recognizes repeatedly), the potential is fascinating and terrifying in equal measure.

There is no question that for Rutherfood, the heroes of his second narrative are the brave scientists who are pushing back the frontiers of knowledge and human capability by splicing genes into cells, and even reinventing the language of DNA. Others who read this tale may begin to question whether they have as much confidence as he has in the unknowable results of synthetic biology.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Half a good book, 19 Aug. 2014
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The first half is a good round-up of current thinking on the origin of life.

but the 2nd half on how we are starting to manipulate life was a bit sketchy and peremptory.
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2.0 out of 5 stars No flow., 13 Oct. 2014
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Found it a difficult read, not because of the content but because I found the style of writing to be disjointed and messy.
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15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Much more care needed, 3 July 2013
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Dr. Geoffrey Kemball Cook (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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I really wanted to like this book (or these books, if you prefer), but was let down so frequently that it was all I could do to finish it/them.

First the good points. Despite his very brief career of actually doing science, Adam has a reasonable breadth of knowledge of evolutionary genetics and synthetic biology, and quite of a lot of experience, through his job as a media editor at the journal Nature, in pitching his discussions for the intelligent lay person. He doesn't do the job badly, certainly. One should not underestimate this - there are many professional academics who cannot do this, and if people like Adam do not have a stab, who is going to? Full-time academics like Dawkins, Jones and Stringer who can really write are rare - and one wonders how on earth they find the time. So far so good.

However, IMHO Adam has let himself down, and he has been let down by his publishers. Let me explain.

The first problem is that Adam thinks he has to jazz up the narrative with wordy trickery. I lost count of the number of times that an obscure word or metaphor was helicoptered in where there were several more usual alternatives. I have to say this is regrettably a common criticism of popular science authors - showing above all that they do not have faith that the material they are discussing can hold the readers' interest without these little explosions of verbal dexterity. For heaven's sake, if the origin and evolution of life, and its potential to be recreated in the future are not already topics of HUGE interest, something is seriously wrong.

Secondly, I am sorry to say Adam has suffered from a lack of competent copy-editing and proofreading. Any serious author knows that (despite the sexing-up and hero-ising of authors generally) the production of a first-class book is the result of a collaboration between the author, a sympathetic and knowledgable editor, and a similarly qualified proofreader. A copy editor may (largely) be said to "correct errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, style and usage" while a proofreader "uses care, judgement, skill, knowledge and experience in checking that the work of author, editor and designer/typesetter is satisfactory" - to catch any final errors including but not restricted to typos. It is rare that an author's draft does not benefit hugely from quality advice and revision in order to clarify the message. By definition, both editor and proofreader need genetics expertise, otherwise they cannot help.

There are enough examples of sloppiness to really get under my skin. A typical case off the top of my head is the repeated use, in discussion of the "O" level chemistry of amino-acids, of the Victorian term "carbolic acid" (also known more commonly as phenol, C6H5OH) instead of "carboxylic acid" meaning the acidic -COOH group possessed by all amino-acids. This is possibly an easy slip to make in the white heat of authorship (but not one any author would wish to be reminded of) but to be missed by everyone down the line is shocking.

Naturally I can only speculate from a reading of the final published book. But that is all any of us can do.

Finally I would take issue with what some nameless PR hack has written to adorn the dustjacket: "Dr Adam Rutherford is a geneticist, writer and broadcaster...". Adam is not a geneticist. He WAS a geneticist for a short time and duly completed a PhD in genetics some ten years ago, but since then he has not carried out any research work in this field and appears to have just one publication dating from his PhD project on Pax6. It is very wrong to describe an author in this way as it does a disservice to those working research academics who do find the time to write books for the interested lay public - who really ARE geneticists (this does not include me, in case you think I am carrying out special pleading). I should stress this is absolutely not to criticise Adam for the career path he has taken and been successful in: science desperately needs popular and engaging characters to spend quality time with researchers, intelligently interpret their latest work and present it in a way that is grown-up but accessible.

Oh, and the "flip-book" conceit of this book or books is genuinely horrible. A real triumph of marketing style over usabilty and good sense. What's wrong with a book that has two sections? Never again please.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for the big questions that keep us awake at night, 14 April 2013
This book is for the big questions that keep us awake at night. The Whys, the Hows and the Whats of our yesterday and tomorrow. Beautifully written, intelligently balanced and accessible without ever patronising. The questions may still keep us awake, but we now have someone to share the twilight hours with. An essential companion for wonderers and insomniacs.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 22 Feb. 2015
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the imaginative thinking+scientific facts-backup is thought producing
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good idea but little substance, 30 April 2013
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It was an interesting concept to bring together a review of current theories on the origins of life with a discussion of where dna research can and should go, but there was little new material here. Too much of the book was spent offering a primer on molecular biology to cover any new ideas in depth and in the end I was confused as to who was the target audience. If you are familiar with the basic science then this book is a waste of time and if not there are many superior alternatives on offer.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 25 April 2013
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Adam Rutherford is an up and coming science icon. The way in which he's managed to write this book is impressive. It is enticing yet tells a very fundamental story and is very informative, not to mention is surprisingly engaging. It is a thrifty two books in one. I also got my copy signed by him, so I'm chuffed.
I would recommend the hardback version of the book as it'll last longer and look good on your shelf.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 13 Feb. 2015
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Brilliant
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Creation: The Origin of Life / The Future of Life
Creation: The Origin of Life / The Future of Life by Adam Rutherford (Paperback - 6 Feb. 2014)
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