One attempt to discover what modern science (from molecular biology to quantum mechanics) can tell us about death. Reanney, a New Zealand microbiologist who died in 1994, began writing this with the idea of presenting a strictly science-based description of the biological meaning of mortality and the psychology of human longings for immortality. We therefore get early chapters on DNA, the ``selfish gene,'' and the implications of relativity theory for consciousness. Reanney relates his ideas to everyday experience, taking a visit to a childhood hometown that had changed beyond recognition as the starting point for asking whether a scene so vivid in memory does not have some ``reality'' despite its physical passing away. This leads to a proposal that the enormous fecundity of living things is grounds for believing that life can effectively reverse entropy, the universal process by which order decays into chaos. The real trouble begins when the author turns to the psychological side of his agenda, arguing, for example, that the universal birth experience (coming from darkness into light) is enshrined in the teachings of all religion, based on selective quotes from a number of mythologies. The book also makes much of split-brain experiments, which are no longer taken seriously by psychologists. In short, from reasonably plausible (albeit controversial) deductions from biology and physics, the argument rapidly veers into sheer speculation based on questionable scienceor even science fiction (the author is fond of quoting from Arthur C. Clarke). While his conclusionthat our destiny is to merge with a sort of cosmic consciousnesswill undoubtedly reassure many readers grieving a loss or facing the imminent likelihood of their own deaths, there is nothing scientific about it once he leaves the familiar ground of molecular biology. Ultimately, this belongs more in the realm of feel-good New Age writing than of science.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-688-14420-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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