Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Black star review
American Scientist online
American Scientific Affiliation

Christopher Wills and Jeffrey Bada

The Spark of Life

There is currently a great deal of discussion about how life arose from the mixture of chemicals present on the early Earth. Did it begin at hydrothermal vents, did it go via an 'RNA world' or is there some explanation which we haven't thought of yet. There are plenty of books which go into detail of the current state of this discussion and the experiments which are being performed. 'The Spark of Life' considers these issues, but takes a wider viewpoint than most books, taking the reader on a journey from the beginning of the earth to the development of the eukaryotic cell.

The first chapter looks at the history of ideas concerning the origin of life, and in particular of spontaneous generation. The book then examines the possible ways in which life might have arisen, and how scientists might hope to 'join up' what the fossil record tells us about early living cells with the results of experiments simulating the early conditions on the earth. The last three chapters look at the nature of living cells deep in the earths crust, how symbiosis might have affected evolution, and the possibilities for extraterrestrial life.

Some books on the subject suffer from the problem of using increasingly technical words as they progress. Mostly 'The Spark of Life' isn't difficult to follow, but I did find that in places the word length tended to increase, making it harder going.

Product Description
"A highly readable survey of the historical prelude to the study of the origins of life, as well as selected areas of current research, including the search for extraterrestrial life."-NatureWhere did we come from? Did life arise on earth or on some other planet? What did the earliest primitive organisms look like? Untangling a century of contentious debate, the authors explore current theories of the source of life-from Martian meteors to hydrothermal vents-and then present their own elegant scenario: Life arose not in the subterranean depths, as many believe, but on Earth's tumultuous surface, where a primitive form of natural selection spawned the first genetic material, perhaps in the form of a proto-virus. Knowing exactly how life began on Earth will not only teach us more about ourselves, it will bring us closer to finding life elsewhere.