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ALMOST LIKE A GREAT BOOK BUT...
on 19 October 1999
Highly enjoyable as Steve Jones's prose is - and he's a fabulous stylist - I couldn't help feeling that he has been ham-strung by his own idea here: mirroring Darwin's structure but filling in and up-dating the gaps. IN THE BLOOD was wonderful for the plethora of short, fascinating stories which he introduced and operated almost like one of those old Beano or Dandy annuals: perfect grazing. Here Jones has to rely on shortish chapters when you can almost feel him wanting to flex his writing muscles more in contrast to that. I suppose my biggest cavil is, however, that 95% of this book's material is overly familiar from the writing of others, by which I mean that so many authors are these days having to follow the same old post-Darwinian tracks and research that those who read a lot of popular science have almost reached the stage where they feel they've already read the UR-Book: a body of knowledge so regularly run through and overlapped by different books that it's almost impossible to be fresh or come up with anything new. But Steve Jones is a superb writer so if you don't read much popular science you will probably enjoy this book. Next time, however, it would be great to see him ally new syntheses or ideas to the stylistic energy.