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Evolution, by Futuyma
on 6 September 2010
Futuyma is a well known evolutionary academic and his book, now into a second edition, is a leading text on the subject. Writing the book must have been a major undertaking and Futuyma is to be commended on producing such a fascinating and comprehensive book.
Unfortunately, large sections of the text are indigestible. A simple example of the general style will suffice:
'From studies of modern organisms, we know that much diversity resides in the great numbers of related species that reduce competition with one another by subtle differences in resource use.'
In addition, it is very common to find excessive use of words:
'...or those of any other species you are familiar with...'
Apart from general style, one finds oneself having to continually reread sentences. It isn't anything to do with the subject matter, or grammar, but with Futuyma's rather strange and clumsy construction of sentences. It is very common to get to the end of a long sentence to arrive at the subject matter of a new topic, idea or concept, ie 'because of x, y, and z, and the intervention of u, v and w, it is shown that a, b, c.' The sentence that was obscure until the end, makes perfect sense on re-reading. It is actually rather interesting how the text is perfectly clear on a second reading, but like wading through treacle on a first reading.
Overall, 'Evolution' is a good, up to date text on the subject. There is also an accompanying website for the second edition (this review refers to the first edition). But do be prepared to occasionally spend time unnecessarily rereading, trying to unravel exactly what Futuyma is saying, and to mutter under your breath: 'Why on Earth didn't he just say....'.