Today’s review is The Secrets of Life: From Big Bang to Trump. How Did Life End Up With Us? This is the first in a four-part series by S. S. O’Connor.
For anyone curious about how ‘it’ all began, who often wonders how life has evolved and why it does what it does – then this book will be of interest.
There are hundreds of such questions mentioned in this book. It’s packed with facts I had no idea about, leaving me in awe of mother nature. Just thinking about the topic of biochemistry would usually give me a headache; however, I thought reading How Did Life End Up With Us? might give me a better understanding of not just biochemistry but many other topics too. It’s not that science doesn’t interest me; it’s just that the literature I’ve read in the past has lost me by the second page! However, with his Secrets of Life Series, SS O’Connor professes to:
...simply explain how things seemed to me. Who knows, I thought, because I was a blank slate I might even be able to understand the general reader’s need for clarity and simplicity rather more than an expert would.
This is what hooked me.
Thank you, Literally PR and SS O’Connor, for my copy of How Did Life End Up with Us? In exchange for my honest review.
SS O’Connor spent over twenty years as an advertising executive before becoming a serial entrepreneur, assembler of private equity projects, investor and corporate strategist. He has been chairman/director of numerous public and private companies. His acclaimed novel, The Prisoner’s Dilemma, was his first novel and was published in 2013. He lives in London and Somerset.
Humans only arrived after 99.99% of the time they’d been life on earth. So what was here before us? And how did these species, and the evolutionary process, end up with the unpromising creature that was to become our ancestor?
In this, the first book The Secrets of Life quartet, SS O’Connor brings his outsider’s, questioning eye to reveal the great forces that lie behind life: from the laws that arose with Big Bang, through to the ‘decisions’ that organisms make to determine their chances.
But how did everything come about? And what made some life forms survive and succeed – while others would join the 99.9% of species that appeared, yet went on to become extinct?
The story shows how survival strategies go right back to our bacterial forebears, the only things that were on the planet for 80% of its existence. It then continues as an unfolding narrative, showing the ways in which successive transmissions build increasing complexity, and how the different species found their beneficial ways of coexisting.
It shows how the gene is the great conductor of life’s orchestra, how it helped millions of life forms to find themselves – but also why it sees failure, death and extinctions as opportunities rather than disasters.
Last, it tells of the men who unpicked the mysteries, what they meant by fitness and the fittest, and why they continued to be baffled by organisms that broke the rules by helping each other. Why would some choose to be sterile – when producing the next generation was the overriding compulsion in life? And why would the answer to this question explain the reasons why cooperation is the strongest force in life, and why altruism is the proof for the ‘gene-based theory of evolution’?
HOW DID LIFE END UP WITH US? investigates, discusses and enlightens the reader to many of life's great questions. Questions such as,
Why can’t everything carry on forever?
What was the Big Bang and what happened?
What is DNA?
What’s bacteria got to do with us, humans?
How did life go from single cells to end up with organisms like us?
I’ve always been fascinated by how life began and how the earth and life evolved into what we have today. Up until now, though, all literature on this subject was as clear as mud. Science was never one of my strongest subjects, mainly due to the terminology used. To me, it might as well have been written in another language. But now, at last, here’s a book which explains and discusses the function of atoms, genes, cells and molecules in an easily digestible way. S S O’Connor explains, without mind-numbing elaborate words, and all this is supported with texts by the greats such as; Charles Darwin, James Hutton, William Smith, Alfred Russel Wallace, Lynn Margulis and JBS Haldane. The result of all this is that the reader gets an even clearer understanding.
Every chapter reveals so much and concludes with even more questions to whet the reader’s curiosity. Every question is then discussed, explored and answered in the following chapter.
Yes, I have to admit that there were sections which I needed to read over again so that it would sink in, but I’m glad that I did. This book is a must for anyone with a thirst for knowledge and answers to life’s big questions. How Did Life End Up with Us? Left me mulling over what I’d read for a while afterwards. It explained so much and in a better and clearer way than my years back at school in science class!
Note: If there is anyone out there who – like me – is unfamiliar with the emerald cockroach wasp, then read this book.
If ever there was an idea for a grisly horror story, here it is. Nature is a marvel – to say the least – beautiful yet repulsive.
This wasp injects venom into the cockroach's nervous system. This incapacitates the cockroach, enabling the wasp to lay its larvae within the host. The offspring then feed from the comatose cockroach - as I say, nature can be beautiful yet also disturbing.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the Secrets of Life series – and discovering yet more wonders.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
My next review is Bloodline, by Chris Bishop. If historical fiction is your thing, especially in the time of King Alfred the Great, then this might just be for you. I'm a third of the way through and was keen to review this because I've always been interested in history and enjoyed reading many historical books, both fact and fiction. Many of my favourite authors include C J Sansom, Phillipa Gregory, Cynthia Harrod Eagles, Alison Weir, Simon Schama and Antonia Fraser. Will Chris Bishop be the new addition to this list of greats? Find out in my next review on April 16th.