I haven't read/heard the book yet so I have no real right to throw in 2 cents. having confessed that:
1. I've never seen so many reviews considered unhelpful. Why is this? Are people "voting" on whether they believe in the book's thesis or not? Jared Diamond's excellent book is also on sale and there's a similar pattern, as if people are voting whether or not all races have the same intelligence.
2. Darwinism, natural selection and "survival of the fittest" is only a small facet of evolution but the one we understand best and easiest. People who attack evolution because it's only partly explained are unfair -- OBVIOUSLY we need more and better explanations for how evolution has progressed so fast, so diversely and (probably) efficiently. Lacking this theory, knowledge or model in no way should denigrate what we have figured out so far.
3. I love science and learning how nature works. I can't fathom how such extreme complexity, such islands of anti-entropy, such beings as have "souls" could come about by any amount of random chance, no matter how many monkeys, typewriters and time. But I'm only human...
4. Pretty sure that science isn't capable of ruling out Intelligent Design. Could a scientist possibly design an experiment or collect data or observances that could rule it in? (Science and Religion have never been opposed, they ask and answer different questions from different directions. They are skew. It's downright silly to ask Science to weigh-in on a Religious question and vice versa but it's amazing how it seems to stir emotions and opinions)
5. Epi-genetics is the hot topic in the last several years and looking like the next good step in understanding the progression of evolution beyond chance mutations. Vaguely: RNA and protein production and the resulting phenotype is controlled by how DNA is exposed or "unrolled" and every organism (indeed, every cell nucleus) has literally several feet of unused and largely un-understood DNA. The fairly famous recent experiment (if I recall correctly) on this showed that if you overfed mouse fathers, their offspring were more likely fat and diabetic-like. How is a message or disease-state like this passed to progeny thru a single sperm? Nothing to do with the DNA code changes.
So, I look forward a lot to listening to the book and hope that its science is up to date.
The first of 3 Andy Carpenter novels, so far. I heard the others first, in comparison this begins with the most and best witty comments (his style resembles something between Dave Barry and Hawkeye in MASH). He does a fine job of explaining the lawyering (maybe like Michael Connelly in the Lincoln Lawyer) and setting the stage.
He's rich, has a wife and girlfriend, loyal friends, and a Golden Retriever so there's a strong sense of well-being projected throughout; i.e. the threats against him just aren't very gut-wrenching and it stays more a feel-good book than other courtroom drama books. The standard plot line involves rushing underprepared to court to defend a possibly innocent client. The major conflict and climax of the books involve the trial and last minute theatrical discoveries, though there's a lengthy catharsis after.
His later books probably have better surprises or less telegraphing and better courtroom drama (he is especially weak in a couple cross-examinations here). But this had the most quips, delivered very glibbly, and was very enjoyable from beginning to end.
The title is famous. Luckily, though I've heard dozens of references to it in my lifetime, no one ever spoiled the ending. Very enjoyable. I now realize what an impact this 1934 story had on subsequent literature. The book represents a time of social classes, attention to good manners, and few amenities but solicitous service. Is this also when the plot ploy of putting all the suspects together in the room with the detective was invented? Or where natural catastrophe traps everyone together with a murderer?
By modern standards the telling is pleonastic and the story starts slowly and lacks periodic cliff-hangers. Rather, it is old-fashioned and masterful syllogism.
I haven't listened to a Clancy book in awhile; suspect this is part of a saga and if you have read others you already know what to expect. In this installment, Jack Ryan Sr is ex-president but unhappy with the direction of the current president. Jack Jr wishes to get into the spook business. Soldiers Clark and Driscoll, et al are probably old characters. A non-government vigilante group hires them all and they seem to have a license to kill with impunity. Meanwhile, a Bin Laden character is planning his next attacks.
The story moves slowly and steadily, parallel threads of terrorist movements and intelligence gathering lead to some showdowns.
Three things strike me: All the characters reflect on their roles and the ethics of what they do but generally end up shrugging off their murders of fellow humans as simply the role they play (like Nazi officers' defense at Nuremburg) or, at best, it's-us-or-them. In the terrorists' case, it's Allah's will.
Secondly, the book is full of Republican-hawk demagoguery. If you're of a liberal or even an independent mindset, this may become annoying. Of note, even as Jack Sr considers a return to politics, the words Replublican or Democrat never appear in the book. It's as if political parties do not exist in the world Clancy has invented.
Thirdly, I know nothing of military hardware and how real spies/agents act. Based on the 3 things I do know about, because they relate to medicine, much of the descriptions here may be terribly inaccurate. The bits about superglue in a wound, use of rat poison in a bomb and dosing of succinyl choline are blatantly crazy. But Clancy is such a master of verisimilitude that the book is fairly satisfying.
A nearly convincing case for Darwinistic evolution is well presented. The story of evolution thru DNA mutation is fascinating. I have never studied this directly but knew about 1/2 from medical school in the early 90's; it seems the evidence/knowledge has at least doubled in a decade.
Problems: 1. a century ago, a theory competed with DNA mutation which has been discredited but I think is making a partial comeback (mentioned briefly near the book end with the Russian scientist). It involves traits of parents that they acquired during their life getting passed to progeny. Since this can't involve DNA changes as parent germ cell DNA is already cast, this doesn't fit with "Darwinism". EPIGENETICS is the latest concept. Vaguely, changing gene expression without changing DNA sequence can alter the phenotype of the individual and it seems that how an organism lives can change proteins in their sperm or egg and pass along "learned" traits.
2. Behe has a similar book in the Audible library where he makes a case for Intelligent Design. Most (but not all) of that is controverted well here. Both authors agree that random point mutations are mostly entropic or destructive and short-sited. Behe can't see how complex protein structures ("toolbox" genes) could possibly evolve with only this mechanism. There is not a good answer for this, Carroll implies that added opportunity for bigger changes occur with gene duplications and the complexities of promoters and complex switching. (And I would add that the 97% or so of our DNA that is non-coding for proteins or "junk" makes a great workshop for new genes to accidentally occur). But, science has not been able to work back to early evolution and describe in any way where the toolbox genes, with perhaps 5 to 15 major protein complexes interacting in a positive way, came about. Panspermia or Intelligent Design cannot yet be ruled out. Carroll's proposition that simple random DNA mutations are fully adequate to support all evolutionary changes from the beginning is not completely proven in my mind and I fully expect other mechanisms to be elucidated in the next 1-2 decades.
Evolution thru DNA mutation, "survival of the fittest", and common ancestry are about as well proven as gravity and the roundness of the earth. It hardly seems necessary to write such an elaborate book to demonstrate this. But, just as Einstein's relativistic physics updated Newtonian, I think there are important subtleties yet to be discovered.
I would love it if Carroll updated his book. A lot has been learned already in the last 4-5 years which further illuminates the mechanisms of evolution.
Another observation: If you are not familiar with genetics, the audible version of this will be very hard to follow. Diagrams help tremendously (so get the book instead or get online).
122 reviews already exist. I read the book years ago and more recently got it on CDs from the library and now bought it. Fantastic and unique.
Obvious reading problem: if told in first person by an Autistic-spectrum teenager, the speech inflections would be flat and often misplaced, along with aberrations in volume and pacing. Not so this reader, he is overly good at inflecting as if dramatizing a children's book.
This is a very enjoyable audible book but to do it justice, you should not LISTEN until you've READ the book and used your own imagination to create the narrator/character.
The first-person protagonist lives in a future where reality is bleak and virtual reality is nearer eutopic. There's a universally used WWW replacement with a huge game created by it's late creator with a huge prize. The hero, an impoverished but clever nerd, is a very dedicated player in the game which requires lots of 1980's era knowledge. He competes against fairly friendly rivals who he gets to know very well virtually but not at all in real life, and an evil corporation.
This is well written in every respect. The primary hurdle is realism and Cline deftly keeps the narrative going without the reader constantly saying, " That couldn't really happen". No, beside a few security/spying issues, you won't need to lower credibility standards. Despite the usual benignity of virtual dangers, the right level of anxiety is often created.
If you're between about 40 and 70 y.o., you'll enjoy much trivia from the Al Franken Decade.
The narration often reminds me of John Grisham in it's naturally paced progression and Wil Wheaton sounds somewhat like Michael Beck, perhaps, with a little extra optimism and confidence to carry the underdog protagonist thru his many tribulations.
But there is a laughably strange occurrence near the end. It's as if Ernest Cline was told by his editor that he hasn't paid homage to the Hollywood/liberal/politically correct crowd well enough (despite his evil corporation caricature) and he should put something else in. So he does it as awkwardly as possible so everyone knows he was forced to. At least that's one interpretation.
Superb book, probably the best in its sub-genre. Kinda like what Clint Eastwood's "The Unforgiven" did to Westerns, the story has now been told properly and there really isn't much room for improvement.
I enjoyed the first-person perspective. The alleged 16 y.o. girl should not have been retarded.. She had the physical, emotional and mental prowess of approximately 11-12 y.o. which I think is common for books of this genre (where readers are girls younger than the protagonist) Secondly, she didn't have to be such a whiner. It was partly the prose and partly the reader but most everything seemed a complaint or a lament thru at least the first half.
The ending was not a surprise, quite formulaic but still satisfying.
I don't think I can stand another Emma Galvin read. Did she do one or more Twilight books? I couldn't get thru the audible version of that due to constant whininess and did better on the written version.
Beyond the whining of the retarded protagonist and perhaps the formulaic aspects, it was "pretty good". The concept of the futuristic society with adolescents having to irrevocably pick a clique, the "Survivor"-ish relationships and especially the coming-of-age transformation of the initially unlikeable protagonist were all well plotted and paced.
Again, the author targetted a very narrow and select young audience. If the protagonist acted her age -- with the intelligence, wit, observational skills of a mid-teenager -- this could have entertained a grown-up.
typical of prior Dan Brown. Least satisfying so far. The bad guy is too evil and too omnipotent and too UNcredible. Errors and conflicting descriptions are more obvious and never explained (extremely muscular eunuch eg) Most characters lecture eachother as if reading abstracts from a Google search with glowing generalities promising a universal truth which is never delivered. It's somewhat like weight-loss-secret pop-up ads keep appearing in the narrative.
Fiction novels, especially action/mystery, should have a separate rating system on credibility. How much are you willing to suspend your sense of disbelief and knowledge of the real world in order to go along with the ride? (Why do highly successful people all seem to have less than a high school level education and mentality? Why don't they delegate to more competent assistants?) In this case, you have to suspend a lot.
Brown's ticking clock suspense and plot twists and who-can-you-trust issues are included. If you loved his prior books, you may like this one.
This droned on with no surprises. The ending was telegraphed from the very beginning. The plot is a non-variation of many horror B movies with some not-very-credible themes of redemption of a riches to rags family man. I picked it because of its setting in the forests and mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the descriptions didn't paint a clear picture for me but still I enjoyed that part. Most inexplicable was the character of the "monster" and its sudden willingness to be exposed to the dangers of humanity.
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