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New Statesman
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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. info
Hardcover 432 pages  
ISBN: 0002556189
Salesrank: 4708880
Published: 2000 HarperCollins
Amazon price $39.87
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Paperback 432 pages  
ISBN: 0006548741
Salesrank: 942783
Weight:0.71 lbs
Published: 2000 Flamingo
Marketplace:New from £8.99:Used from £0.60
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ISBN: 0002556189
Weight:1.76 lbs
Amazon price CDN$ 58.85
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 50.00:Used from CDN$ 9.30
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Product Description
Bringing together the latest insights from genetics and cyberculture, this book contends that all life can be conceived of as information. It explores future developments in genetics, both as a consequence of Darwinian natural selection and under the influence of genetic engineering. The ideas are illustrated by writing that draws on a range of surreal examples including hypermarkets containing every toy in the universe, pufferfish that think like flies, Peter Pan-like trips through human genes and creatures that evolve in months and not millennia. It argues that the future will be dominated by biological machines evolved artificially by a process of accelerated evolution which is called "evolution compression".