A captivating prediction about the future of mankind.

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WHAT COMES AFTER HOMO SAPIENS?

WHEN AND HOW OUR SPECIES WILL EVOLVE INTO ANOTHER SPECIES

A scientist explores the possibility that a new human species could arise within the next two centuries.

It seems like fantastical sci-fi fodder: the emergence of a new, intelligent species that shares the Earth with us—maybe as partners and maybe as rivals. But debut author Simborg, a physician, contends that it’s not only possible, but also likely that a new species—he dubs it “Homo nouveau”—will eventually appear. This sort of species coexistence is historically the evolutionary norm, he says; for a stretch of at least 10,000 years, he points out, Homo sapiens lived side by side with Homo neanderthalensis and Homo denisova. And although we’re still subject to Darwinian evolution—we’ve undergone seismic transformations in the last 40,000 years—the new humans, he says, won’t be the result of it or of the natural, accidental branching of a new species from the existing one. Instead, he argues, Homo nouveau will be birthed by genetic engineering—more specifically, germline genetic therapy, which, he says, can allow new traits to be passed on to offspring. For example, he writes, this type of genetic editing could be used on a portion of the population to prevent a disease, and then that group could interbreed for generations. (For the sake of hypothesis, the original alteration doesn’t make breeding problematic by, for instance, increasing the possibility of miscarriage.) Such a combination of technologically sophisticated action and ungovernable accident, he asserts, could eventually give rise to Homo nouveau. Given the extraordinary leaps in genomic science and the likelihood that such germline editing will become both more effective and popular, he avers, it seems plausible that a new species will materialize. Simborg travels a wide expanse of scientific and philosophical terrain with astonishing brevity. In order for his book to be accessible to the layperson, he needed to quickly explain concepts surrounding species and natural selection, and he accomplishes this with clarity and the breeziest style that such technical subject matter permits. The author also ably furnishes a minihistory of evolution, appraising the theoretical interpretations of Charles Darwin, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and Gregor Mendel. Perhaps more impressive, though, is that Simborg’s thesis compels him to take readers on a tour of multiple disciplines, including neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and anthropology. For example, over the course of this work, he thoughtfully discusses and critiques futurist Ray Kurzweil’s predictions regarding the singularity, the moral issues raised by genetic editing, and the difficulty of defining life itself. Even stripped of its provocative hypothesis regarding Homo nouveau, this study supplies a magisterially synoptic introduction to evolutionary science and its sister fields. Furthermore, Simborg’s zeal for scientific explanation doesn’t keep him from being sensitive to abiding mysteries; he concedes a whole host of unanswered questions, including those regarding the genesis of life on Earth: “This book is certainly not finished, and the answers are certainly not resolved. Not a week goes by that I don’t read something newly published that is relevant to the answers.”

A captivating prediction about the future of mankind.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-92001-5

Page Count: 294

Publisher: DWS Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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