Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Caspar Henderson
Cosmos Magazine
Daily Mail
Telegraph.co.uk
Peter Spinks
guardian.co.uk

Steve Jones

Coral : a pessimist in paradise

You may have come across coral in a piece of jewellery, or you may even have seen living coral while diving, but you probably wouldn't have thought of all of the links between coral and humans which Steve Jones describes in his new book Coral : a pessimist in paradise.

The book starts with Jones looking at a coral brooch which came down to him from his sea-captain grandfather. He goes on to describe how coral reefs are formed, showing how Darwin's ideas were eventually proved correct when reefs were used in nuclear tests Coral can reproduce asexually rather than grow old and die, so hopeful humans have harvested and sold them as rejuvinatives. They also live as symbionts, but recently there has been much 'bleaching' of coral where they split up with their symbiotic partner. There's a chapter on earthquakes and epidemics, and one on the links between corals and carbon in several forms including diamond and CO2. So you can see that theres plenty of opportunity for pessimism. Jones concludes the book with a chapter on the destruction of coral reefs, and its uncertain future.

In The Single Helix I felt that Jones chapters were too short. Here I felt that they are too long at 30 - 40 pages each without anything to break them up. If you like the sort of book which rambles from one thing to another, sometimes with only a tenuous link to the main subject, then this might suit you, but I wouldn't recommend it to readers who want to learn about corals.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 256 pages  
ISBN: 0316729418
Salesrank: 11263931
Weight:0.79 lbs
Published: 2007 Little Brown
Marketplace:New from $23.35:Used from $3.36
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 256 pages  
ISBN: 0349118353
Salesrank: 5363068
Weight:1.11 lbs
Published: 2008 Abacus
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 288 pages  
ISBN: 0316729418
Salesrank: 3499106
Weight:0.79 lbs
Published: 2007 Little, Brown
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 21.00:Used from CDN$ 0.68
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Product Description
While writing this book, Steve Jones had beside him the coral brooch that his sea captain grandfather brought back across the Indian Ocean as a gift for his wife. This simple object is a starting point for a dazzling narrative that touches on a number of the most important issues facing us today. Following in the footsteps of Darwin and Captain Cook, Jones reveals what coral has to tell us about the human genome project, cloning, and the possibility of a cure for cancer and genetic diseases; what insights it can offer us into the future of trade in oil and other forms of carbon; how it is linked to the fluctuations in weather patterns that have lead to destruction along the coasts of the Americas and the Far East. Finally, Jones considers what coral - exploited and destroyed in many ways and under siege from climate change - tells us about the likely future of the planet and humankind: it is a warning that both may be close to the point of no return. CORAL: A PESSIMIST IN PARADISE is an inspired, eclectic book that links science with history, literature, politics and myth. It belongs to a vivid tradition of thinking and writing about humankind and its place in nature.