As in her previous books on less complicated aspects of natural history, Patent combines a specialist's understanding of her subject with a talent for making it clear to beginners. Emphasizing that evolution is change, which continues to occur, she discusses such phenomena as natural selection, speciation, genetic drift, and coevolution; directs attention to species that seem to be in transition today; takes up flu viruses as ""fine examples of evolution in action""; provides a brief, demystifying description of the DNA molecule and how it codes for individual traits; and ends with an assessment of human interference in evolution via pesticides and pollution, engineered breeding, and DNA research. Relevant examples are integrated throughout to clarify and vitalize the concepts, so that one is never bogged down by abstraction or bored with pedantic detail. Less technical and less specialized than Adler's introduction to cell chemistry in How Life Began (revised this year), this will find a niche of its own; whereas Klein's Threads of Life (1970) covers much of the same material in terms of historical discoveries, Patent's is a more direct and integrated overview. And unlike Gallant (How Life Began, 1975), who felt the need to defend the theory of evolution, Patent concentrates on explaining it.