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Adrian Woolfson

Life without Genes

The origin of life is a fascinating subject, in particular the transition from chemicals floating about to what we would recognise as a living entity. The problem is how to convey this to readers who are not versed in the details of biochemistry. I do not think that this book fully succeeds at this task. Certainly the first part avoids a textbooky style when dealing with multidimensional state spaces by using plenty of metaphor and even several dream sequences. If you like this sort of style then you might want to try this book, but to my mind it was too quirky and made the book too long for a bit of light reading.

The central part of the book takes us back to proto-genes, and then to the pre-gene era when life consisted of chemical reactions without the ability to store information about itself. I have to say I found these chapters somewhat difficult to read - I'm sure that the average word length shot up at this point. This seems to be a common failing of books on this subject.

The final chapter is entitled 'The future of life', but is really a summary of the evolution of life from its beginnings to the present and possible futures, both near and distant. This chapter is much more readable, and could well be read on its own, separately from the rest of the book.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews