Out of all of the non-fiction books I've listened to, this ranks as the best one yet. This is the second book by Dawkins that I've listened to. I am fascinated by evolutionary biology so I have a natural bias to this book and probably any book on the subject. While some parts of this book are dry, they are necessary for giving a complete picture to what is being discussed.
I enjoyed the discussion on the cumulative selection early in the book. It is a very important concept that helps explain Darwinian evolution.
Dawkins is often viewed as an atheist paragon seeking to always tear down religion but this book does not do that. His focus is on evolution and why it properly describes how we as humans came to be rather than just attacking opposing views.
If you have never read/listened to earlier books involving the human mind and the way we trick ourselves (Michael Shermer comes to mind) then much of the information would seem new and intriguing. Unfortunately since I've read other books, this had literally no new information for me.
The narrator's tone and approach simply did not match the content.
I expected a fresh take on some of the topics, however this was not the case. Even the examples provided were ones already presented in other books by other authors. While I know that the concepts will be similar since they are well-known and documented, I expected to get a different perspective. Instead it was a re-hash and left me wishing I had my credit back.
For a book that aimed to step through the periodic table, it was disjointed and scattered. There did not seem to be any real direction to the book.
I thought some of the anecdotes were very interesting and entertaining.
Definitely disappointment. I expected a more organized approach. The author hopped between elements, stories, and just had no real direction. It could have been so much better.
I'd be somewhat hesitant. The first couple of chapters of the book focused on some of the knowns of "weird life" but the last few left a bad taste in my mouth. The discussion on robots taking over and becoming self-aware was a stretch. Too much "suppose that" sentences starting off big ideas and I found myself asking for a little more evidence than just imagining it at some points. While some of the points brought up are good, if you are looking for evidence to back up the claims, there is none.
He was a little too robotic in his narration and didn't seem to have much energy. I think this type of book would have done well to have a more upbeat narrator.
I'd say it is worth listening to if you enjoy to think about what could be and let your imagination run wild. To me the book borders on science and pseudo-science, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The boundaries have to be pushed, prodded, and explored so that some of the more amazing discoveries can be found. I was hoping this book did a little better job presenting evidence to back up some of the more extreme ideas, like computer self-awareness, as I'm not convinced the author knew enough about the topic to present it is a viable scenario of "weird life".
I found this to be a nice summation of what you would end up, or at least should end up, getting out of an introductory class to biological evolution. It is also a nice source to refresh yourselves on some of the terms and major points of evolution in respect to biological anthropology. If you have any interest in the subject, it is worth the credit.
While natural selection is the primary driving force of evolution, John Tyler Bonner does a wonderful job of reminding us that there is indeed randomness in evolution and it is often forgotten about or overlooked. He presents his argument well in concise, clear, and original thoughts which I found very refreshing. Having listened to and read a good amount of books on evolution and evolutionary biology, Bonner is a must read/listen for anyone interested in the subject.
I thought the narrator did an alright job though at times his voice did not really fit with the subject. Some words he overemphasized when it was not needed and came off as forced. It was not too distracting or detracting but could have been better.
The plot did keep me intrigued simply because more and more about Pendergast's history was revealed. Much of his character is based on mystery but this book does a great job of revealing much, while not revealing all about who Pendergast is and what makes him tick.
Not Scott Brick
I was let down by the two books prior to Fever Dream in the series as it seemed almost like the characters were only the same in name. Part of it could have come from the change in the narrator and the fact that I have listened to the books within months of each other. I'm not sold completely on Rene Auberjonois as I think his Pendergast is not as believable as Scott Brick's. The honey like Southern accent just isn't there. The story is more enjoyable though which has set to rest my concerns about the direction of the series. I expect to not love every book, but when two in a row were let downs, I started to become concerned. Thankfully Preston and Child picked it back up with Fever Dream.
I'm not sure I'd give Anthony Zuiker another shot. I thought the writing was ok but the book did not really draw me in as many other writers in this genre. For me, there are many more options out there that I'd spend a credit on first. I've listened to 3 or 4 narrations by Gildart Jackson and I can say that I would enjoy to hear him more. I think he handles fictional stories with a variety of characters very well.
I thought the characters were not believable. For me, I get drawn into a suspenseful story when I can buy into how the characters react in their circumstance. The characters here did not have much substance to them and I found myself not really caring about any of them.
I enjoy Gildart Jackson's narrations. He did a good job varying his voice for the different characters to the point that I could tell who was who without their name having to be spoken.
For a free book I'd say it was worth it. The story is not too bad and it goes by quickly although I did let myself get distracted which usually means I got bored at times and stepped away from listening for a bit.
It's free so give it a shot!
I'd recommend this book to a friend simply because of my own fascination with the subject. This book does a nice job of giving a relatively wide coverage of the human genome, going into a good amount of detail while not losing the reader into too much technicality.
I like all chromosomes equally.
I thought the narrator was good, not great. For whatever reason, many non-fiction books in these categories feel they need to get that certain kind of narrator that often times doesn't fit. Someone a little more lively would have been a better fit.
If learning about the human genome is interesting to you, then this book is a good listen.
Some of the characters just didn't fit for me. Preston and Child generally make very believable and intriguing characters although this was not the case for me with The Wheel of Darkness. It also felt that one recurring character, who I won't name to avoid spoiling anything from previous books, seemed to have some personality changes that just did not fit with the character established in previous books. Again, where consistency was the norm, The Wheel of Darkness felt quite abnormal for me.
I'd only recommend it for friends that are fans of this series. I'm not one who can listen to random books throughout a series but have to listen to them all in order. So personally I couldn't skip over it although I think some people might be able to.
I actually thought a few of the characters sounds pretty close and having spent the last few books in the series listening to Scott Brick, there is a difference between the two narrators and I prefer Scott Brick. My bias likely sways my feelings on Rene Auberjonois but others that loved Brick's narrations with this series as I did may feel like this performance was not up to par.
It inspired me to grab the next book in the series hoping it is better than this one.
If you enjoy the Pendergast series, I'd say you are safe to give this one a go. Besides, out of the many books in the series, there are just some you are bound to not enjoy as much as others. For me, The Wheel of Darkness was one of those I did not like as much, but not enough to deter me away from continuing on with this series.
Without spoiling too much, there was a nice build up to the climax of the book that I enjoyed greatly. There was just enough tension and suspense that I wanted to find out what was going to happen. The conclusion was unexpected to me and it did not seem to take the expected path, which I actually enjoyed. I could imagine some would not like it, but personally I found it very real.
Am I going to once again say how well Scott Brick did bringing this story to life? Yes I am. If i'm ever on the fence about a book, if Scott Brick narrates it I figure "at least the narration will be solid" and everything usually turns out ok.
Don't read/listen to this without hitting up the first two in this sort of trilogy. The authors would say that each can stand on it's own, but I really think it performs better when taken in order.
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