Dense Yet Enlightening. If you’re like me and don’t like taking books across into a new month, I do *not* recommend trying to read this on the last day of the month while still working or having virtually any other obligation. Though its bibliography is a touch low at just 17% of this advanced copy (and it has numerous problems, at least in this form, of saying something like “the industry spent $ billions of dollars” without actually giving the number – a problem I’ve never noted before in any other such text), much of the reason for that is that the author himself conducted so many interviews and consulted the public court records so much, so at least there is that on that particular point. Beyond its sourcing though, this is truly a fascinating yet *dense* look at the particular issue of the AMP v Myriad patent lawsuit that eventually became a landmark Supreme Court of the United States case, detailing its full history and the personnel involved, at least insofar as their personal involvement with the case goes. (Vs other similar books looking at a particular issue like this, where full biographies of the personnel are given. Here, just enough biography is given to establish who this person is within context of this issue and their motivations surrounding it, without giving their full life stories outside of events connected to this exact case.) You may say to yourself “this is just 350 or so effective pages, that is an easy day’s read”. IT. IS. NOT. I cannot reiterate enough just how dense (yet truly readable and fascinating) this book is. Almost as though it seems to try to pack in double the amount of words of a book of similar length. Still, it is truly compelling, truly comprehensive, and truly well written, and for this it is very much recommended.
This review of The Genome Defense by Jorge L Contreras was originally written on October 1, 2021.
Solid History, Perhaps A Bit Too Optimistic On Future Tech. In showing the history of how humans have been using crude genetic engineering essentially since we first began interacting with the world – both plant and animal – and in showing how our more modern techniques – including CRSPR – came to be, Shapiro does a great job in showing just how much humans have *already* shaped the evolution of non-human life on this planet. In the ancient world, she uses a lot of her own experiences as a scientist in that exact field, and even in the more modern cases she is discussing techniques she mentions in the earlier sections as having used extensively. On these points, Shapiro is truly excellent.
Where she stumbles a bit – not enough for a star deduction, but enough for a bit of commentary – is that she is perhaps a bit too optimistic about how genetic tinkering will be used in the future. Yes, she discusses the various quandaries, but even in such discussions- *even when discussing the GMO humans created in China a couple of years ago* – Shapiro tends to just hand wave over the negative, darker sides of the technology even while acknowledging their potentially cataclysmic power. This is where a solid dose of science fiction is useful, showing that even when scientists such as Shapiro have the best of intentions… things may not always turn out the way they think, and thus caution truly is warranted. (Yes, I’m thinking of a specific book in this particular example, but the reveal that GMO is used within it is a *massive* spoiler, and thus I’m not naming it here. I *will* note that it is by the same author and indeed part of the spoiler is that it uses some of the same tech as described in HUNGER by Jeremy Robinson, which is another cautionary tale of the “benefits” of genetic modification.)
Still, for what it is and for what the description claims it sets out to do, this truly is a solid examination of the history and current state of the field, and for this it is very much recommended.
This review of Life As We Made It by Beth Shapiro was originally written on September 10, 2021.
Fascinating And Short. To be such a compact tale – 220 pages or so – this volume puts in a fairly dense amount of information at a very high level (for its extremely advanced concepts anyway, some of which deal with literally the smallest entities known to mankind), which is even more remarkable when one considers the volume of space dedicated to the often stunning imagery included in even this months-prior-to-publication advanced reader copy. (For those unfamiliar with ARC work, actually getting to see most imagery referenced in a book is a rarity. :D) As to showing these ten patterns and roughly how they can all be seen to link up to explain the universe. Clegg definitely shows – again at a very high level – that links are there, often in ways not everyone would think to look. As to whether these fully explain the universe… that, is a much larger question that Clegg never really dives into too deeply, seemingly satisfied that they seem to explain the universe *as we currently understand it*. Which is a major concession, particularly in light of just how recent most of the developments Clegg details are in human history. (Quite a few within the last 150 years or so, vs the few thousand years of even recorded history.) Overall truly an interesting book and a quick ish read to boot, that doesn’t *completely* require a science related degree to understand (though having some degree of familiarity with STEM subjects will certainly help any reader here), and thus very much recommended.
This review of Ten Patterns That Explain The Universe by Brian Clegg was originally written on May 11, 2021.