Apparently, there was a violinist with a really strong thumb. It may or may not have had to do with his genes. That's the level of insight you can expect about "Lost Tales of Love, War and Genius."
The book is an excellent history of the science and discovery of DNA. He also talks about the controversies surrounding the human genome project. However, I was expecting more information about how our genes shape our behavior in interesting ways. Something like "so-and-so discovered an argument gene prevalent in lawyers..."
The performance is engaging and the history is complete but the book was not what I was expecting.
This book grabs you with a fast paced, exciting first chapter but never really delivers on that promise.
In trying to describe the events of the attack and put them in context the author strays a little too far a little too often to hold the reader. Further, the big question introduced in the first chapter is never answered satisfactorily.
I appreciated his description of post-perestroika Russia, which I was almost completely ignorant of before this book. But the background starts to feel like a history lesson and you keep asking "but what about the tiger?" This is even worse when he goes into the personal histories of the involved hunters and townspeople. I'm certain these people made a tremendous impression on the author, but the details of their lives do not really move the narrative along.
The writing is excellent--having lived "up north" I really was transported by his descriptions and he re-creates the feel of village life quite well. I also enjoyed his narration. It is difficult for an author to read their own book, but he manages to inflect well enough to make you catch puns you might otherwise miss.
With better editing this could have been another "Into Thin Air" but as is it requires some effort to get through.
I'm a big fan of the author and really enjoyed "Our Inner Ape." I enjoyed this book less. The writing is interesting but the book has an unstructured, unfinished feel to it.
He draws on his vast primatology experience to address the question "how can we have morality without God?" Using many insightful stories about chimps, bonobos and other monkeys he demonstrates that evolution has given us an innate moral sense that only recently (in anthropologic time) has been transplanted to the institution of religion.
He never clearly lays out this very delicate and complicated argument. His style is more throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. I never had a sense of what would be coming next and there was no systematic refutation of possible objections. As a student of philosophy I expect a clear premise and a well structured argument to back it up. I agree with most of what he says, but I honestly don't see how you could attack his argument if you didn't. There's no "If A, then B and if B then C. Now I'm going to prove A and B." Instead he gives us detailed analysis of several medieval paintings and anecdotes from his research.
I did appreciate his bristling at Hitchens and Dawkins' confrontational atheism. I like(d) them, but both frequently get a pass because of their divine status in the atheist pantheon.
In the end "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," and he hasn't brought that.