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I hesitated for almost a year before plunging into this book as it looked rather intimidating. Don't hesitate - this is really worth listening to NOW. Mukherjee uses 'Gene' as the title, because the Gene is the central idea, but he points out that the Gene is to biology what the Atom is to Physics and the Bit or Byte to computer science or IT. Meaning that the book is really the history of biology, or more importantly of how we have come to understand our own selves at a molecular level, and actually got to the point where we can tinker with our own blue-print. I have this crazy image in my head of a grinning tin robot holding a shiny new spanner, lifting up the lid of her metal cranium and poking inside, meanwhile saying 'I have this idea that I have a screw loose, and I think I can probably fix it with this new spanner.' That is about the position of the human race at this point in time. The spanner is gene editing technology. Mukherjee explains very clearly the opportunities and risks, it's both scary and exciting.
I'll mention one other thing. It is very hard to understand how difficult it is to discover things. For example, Darwin almost had a nervous breakdown trying to understand how characteristics could be both accurately passed down generations and yet also create variation. How hereditary particles could behave like paints (which blend) and yet preserve distinct variations. In terms of logic, Heredity seems to behave like 'X' and 'not X' at the same time. Similarly scientists were all circling around DNA for ages before they finally landed on the double helix. Mukherjee has a genius for making it clear how hard it is to work things out for the first time.
One last thing. The book is full of fairly advanced science, but Mukherjee also uses examples from his own family (who have a history of Schizophrenia) and other families to add a personal and more accessible slant to the book. Readers of his previous magnum opus on Cancer will recognise this approach. For me it works very well to relate the science to actual human lives that are affected, for better or worse, by the dry stuff that happens in laboratories.
Narration. American so not really a true reflection of the Indian-born author, but very professional, competent, measured (he does a slightly angry voice only when this is appropriate).
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Very well researched, written and read - at times like a thriller, at times like a mystery and at times like a credible science journal. 20 hours very well spent!!
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
The subject is very interesting and the author was very good in intersecting the cientific advances with the sociological impact and reactions. It is also interesting to understand the relationship among researchers and their motivations. But the book is a little bit too technical for a layman and 2/3 of the book are filled with technical details. But the worse is dealing with this in an audiobook, when it is hard to back to check on something, take a little longer to read and reread a paragraph. I recommend the book, but not on audio. I might get a print copy to go back to some points that I want to understand better.
This is a truly remarkable volume where the author unpacks for the layperson the history of Genetics. Of equal importance, the current issues concerning genes and their manipulation, right up to the present day, are expounded and explained. I learned a great deal from this fine book.