The journey provides the setting for a collection of some 40 tales. Each explores an aspect of evolutionary biology through the stories of characters met along the way or glimpsed from afar: the Elephant Bird's Tale, the Marsupial Mole's Tale, the Lungfish's Tale. Together they give a deep understanding of the processes that have shaped life on Earth: convergent evolution, the isolation of populations, continental drift, and the great extinctions.
©2004 Richard Dawkins; (P)2004 Orion Publishing Group Ltd
I have read the original book and found it to be a bit slow in places but otherwise great. As such I was very happy to listen to this book in an abridged version, especially when Dawkins reads so much of it himself. I was very pleased with this audiobook overall; the quality, voices and editing are excellent.
The Ancestors Tale is a treasure chest of amazing accounts. Like the duck billed platypus, mocked for its bill, which is in fact is a stunning piece of technology, resembling AWAKS radar - it is an electro and pressure sensor laden probe for detecting minuscule muscle movements of prey in muddy water. Or the Hippo ancestors tale, from the middle of which lineage sprang all Whales, making Hippos closer to Whales than to any land animals. We puzzle together in the flatworms tale about the unlikely origins of sex, and with it the male gender, or gawp at the psychedelic bizarreness of the Velvet worm "Hallucigenia" and the significance of the "Cambrian Explosion".
Dawkins corrects from the start the anthropocentric notion we have of ourselves as the pinnacle of Evolution. There is only one pinnacle, and that is at the origin of life, where all divergent species come together. The "Concestor" of all life. We look at the theory of RNA world, in speculating about the first replicators in the primordial soup.
Dawkins is probably the UKs best known atheist, but whereas his theology is to me the steel and concrete of a modernist tower block, his evolutionary accounts are glittering diamonds, sparkling with vivid colour. And, I begin to understand, for this is his religion, beside which traditional religion looks tawdry, dull and unimaginative.
This book is Dawkins pilgrimage, in which we join him, like Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims, going back in time, through the wonders of our common ancestry to meet and hear the ancestor's tales. Perhaps it would have been better unabridged, but only because we would hear more.
Finally, I love the intimacy of the narration, alternating between Richard and his wife Lalla Ward, their telling fantastically bringing the text to life. I cannot praise this book enough, if you have any sense of the wonder of life... Go travel back in time with them, and meet our common ancestry - I promise you will not regret it.
OK got your attention.
This audiobook gives a wonderful overview of evolution and how we (and I mean you, me and everyone now alive) got here.
It makes a very special case of how lucky WE are to be here, experiencing this wonderful world.
RD comes for a lot of flack re his beliefs on religion, but he makes a very strong case for how special WE truely are.
So many things could have prevented me from writing this review, from a bus hitting me on the way to work, mum not meeting dad, Germany winning WW2, the Black Death not killing so many people in England, the last ice age lasting a bit longer, the KT asteroid missing earth, Jupiter not 'sucking' big rocks etc etc (Deep huh?).
The universe is really, really big. This planet has been going for a very, very, long time. RD tries to get us thinking how things change, why they change and more importantly sets these changes within a time frame - a very, very long timeframe.
I loved this audiobook; it was testing, hard work at times but ultimately life affirming. I'm pleased to be here and I really want to thank all my ancestors for their help in surviving and procreating (don't know what mum will make of this!!).
Apologies for using 'very' so much in this review.....but that really is where the creationists lose the plot - this planet is very, very, very, very old - science proves this - really, truely proves this and a lot can happen in this very, very, very long timeframe.
All this stuff happened way before 4004 BC - so come on everyone, get a grip on the scale of creation.
I just think its sad that some people can't see how special we really are!
Many thanks Richard for an educational read/listen (though I much prefer it when you stick to provable science and let the reader do the philosophical musings!!).
Exploring humanity's evolution backwards through our ancestor species, this book powerfully shows the immense glory, wonder and incredible intricacies of the natural world, explained in a way which is eminently understandable, combining good science (including explaining gaps in knowledge where they currently exist) and genuine passion.
Here is a mind which revels in the stupendous marvel that is life, and is itching to share his boundless enthusiasm with the world.
It's a shame it is only available abridged - as it is a big book, the reading is missing an awful lot, and whole chapters have been chopped to enable those that remain still to make sense and tell their tale. However, what remains is very well read.
The first thing that struck me about this audio is that they are different to the book. Not only are they abridged but the language is changed to emphasize different points & to be more palatable to the ear. With reading the book, a lot of the stuff flew over my head (e.g. Cholanoflagellates) & I'm glad such things are abridged here.
The second is the presence of Lalla Ward, who seems to cover the large quotations Dawkins often uses in his works & also seems to read the more technical (or rather more mundane) parts of the tales. Having listened to the whole of Origin of Species, I am thankful that the narrator varies a bit as occasionally Dawkins can read things as known that are unknown to his wife (& so read differently).
In terms of content there is still the rich variety of tales (including my favourite: the Duck-billed Platypus) & I can only recall a few interesting Gambits which have been left out (e.g. Eve evolving 40,000 years before Adam & the Paedomorphosis of Man story).
My one criticism is that the Ancestor's tale is very detailed & involves lots of left-brain work. If you are listening to this in a car (or even typing a review!) then it is hard to fully follow the reasoning. Maybe this is because Men can't multi-task, but I'd be bold enough to suggest that even women may find this difficult...
To conclude then, audio books are often overlooked as a medium & it is to this one's credit that it is adapted to the ear, just as the book is adapted to the eye. If you know of anyone who hasn't read the book then I'd suggest giving them this as a starter, and the hard backed version of the book (with its shiny pictures) as a main course. As one of my fellow reviewers says: 1 copy of this book should be given to every member of mankind, to put the doubts about evolution to rest. Whatever you can do to play your part is to your credit.
With talent and style, R Dawkins leads us through the maze of ancestry, origins, confraternity between the species, and places all this information in the context of the universe, which he also explains with consumate care and seeming ease for those of us who are not scientists of any kind.
It is book to listen to time and again, whose depths mirror those of the very universe he helps us to envisage. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Judith Corstjens Author of: Xtensity, Why 5% of Dieters Succeed; Storewars: The Battle for Mindspace and Shelfspace; Strategic Advertising
I tend to forget that Richard Dawkins is a academic zoologist when I watch him Hitch-slapping creationists on Youtube (something I do quite a lot). In this book Dawkins creates an odd mixture, and it is a hard to imagine the reader for whom the book is written. Some sort of taxonomical freak – part creationist (as Dawkins can’t resist making regular digs at the small number of humans who still reject the theory of evolution), part serious zoology student (detailed examples with many technical terms straight from Zoology lectures at Oxford University), and part non-scientist looking for a pop-science primer on the descent of man (lively description of how enzymes work, and are named, using the imaginary enzyme ABZase, which grabs a molecule A, then grabs a molecule B, faces them together in the right position and joins them to create molecule Z).
Dawkins is also classically nerdy, defining ‘before’ as actually meaning ‘chronologically after’ since he is writing history backwards starting at man (us) and following evolution backwards, meeting all our ‘concestors’ at a series of ‘rendez-vous’ back through time to ‘Cantebury’ which turns out to be a deep sea volcanic vent. All in all, I’m quite glad I audioed the abridged version of this book, as 8 hours is probably enough for even a devoted Dawkins fan (which I am).
Narration: Dawkins, as ever, does a good job of expressing himself. He shares the narration with his wife, and she is unfortunately not up to the task, sounding effortful and self-conscious. The basic idea of changing voices works well to parenthesise various asides and quotations. Why not pay for a professional co-narrator?
as always with Richard Dawkins the writing is wonderful. it is beautifully read. My only gripe are some rather long sections where Dawkins digs into his opponents! Although I generally agree with Dawkins here, that he goes on for so long reiterating a point seems unnecessary. saying this though, the section on the 'tyranny of the discontinuous mind', was wonderful.
Grateful that there are big brains around to help mine on it's way. I think a 'thank you' is appropriate. 'Live long and prosper' Richard and Lalla.
"Very abridged, but fascinating anyway"
This audio version is a very much abridged version. It is frustrating when listening to the many parts and tales that are mentioned by title, but left out of this version. Because, Richard Dawkins is always a good listen. Occasionally he goes onto my nerves with his heightened language and strange poems added in weightfull speech. However, the story he has to tell is engaging, the perspective of a pilgrimage back through time, meeting common ancestors we have with all life on Earth is a unique one. Each and every one of the individual tales are a fascinating read. I was most intrigued by the discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of sexual reproduction - unbelievable that such a basic property of life is not understood - what a great problem to work on.
Did I mention that it is too bad that this book is abridged?
"student of biological sciences"
a brilliant text on evolution.
very entertaining, with appropriate focus given to the most significant historical diversions.
a pleasure to have listened to
"yenruoj elbayojne nA"
seY, I liked the execution of the idea of going backwards in time, and I am specially interested in the theory of Evolution and all of its implications.
The explanation about the RNA world hypothesis.
The explanation about all of the experiments that have been and are being carried out trying to figure out the mechanisms through which live can come about from inanimate matter.
When after recognizing all of the misuse and abuse of racial classification Richard explains why race does have a very useful taxonomical function.
The explanation about the RNA world was just wonderful.
"The Travel of Our Lives"
The bit about the RNA world, a theory about how life could have emerged from simpler molecules that have a superior balance between self-replicating and catalystic capabilities than DNA and proteins have.
Dawkins' another book, The Blind Watchmaker
This couple is just wonderful. I heard the Blind Watchmaker as well, and that was a perfect performance as well. Engaging and humorous, hard to stop listening to.
Last chapter, when Dawkins reflects about the reverence to the wonderful universe we live in that only science can really bring us.
Every time I read or listen to Dawkins, my further reading increases 2 years long. There is much to be learned from this figure ;)
"If all audio books were this good ....."
I've read the book and listened to the audio book.
Although the audio is an abridged version, I enjoyed it more.
Dawkins is as brilliant a speaker as he is a writer and Lalla Ward is the perfect complement.
One plus one = three.
Together they make the understanding of a complex subject effortless and pleasurable.
"For the converted"
For those who accept Darwin's ideas this is a an entertaining and interesting book. Mr Dawkins does like to preach sometimes but he has a pleasant and engaging style and these passages are not uniteresting.
A pity that it is abridged.
For those (Americans) who don't accept Darwin, Dawkins's erudition will leave you seething. So best give it a miss.
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