If ever text called for editor, this is it.




Canadian journalist Dewar (Bones, 2001) tackles the whole business of stem cells, cloning, and other at-the-edge science in a text composed largely of long interviews with various movers and shakers.

And business, she contends is what it’s all about. The not-hidden agenda of the text is the oft-repeated refrain that science and capitalism now go hand in hand; that academia is being bought by corporations; that scientists have made fortunes in biotech; and that even bioethicists command huge consultants’ fees for their advice. As far as regulation is concerned, forget it. Government (at least in Canada) doesn’t have a clue. Add to this the title reference to Genesis: Adam and Eve were banned from Eden because they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, forever depriving them from the second Tree—of Life. But it’s the tree of life that Dewar sees as the quest of “hubristic” scientists in a field she calls “revelationary.” Such would include Advanced Cell Technology’s Michael West, who started out hoping to “cure” aging by finding the gene that allows cells to keep dividing. And it would include James Watson, who comes in for major attack, along with the Cold Spring Harbor enterprise he has long directed. And Craig Venter. But for all Dewar’s rants, she has raves as well: for Fred Sanger, Sidney Brenner and John Sulston; and, in one nice chapter, the bioinformatics geeks who saved the US government and Celera by creating the software that allowed assembly of the rough drafts of the human genome. Does the reader learn about the science and ethics of stem cell and cloning research? Yes, Dewar does all right there, but her descriptions are so often covered up by portraits of the personalities involved, their motives, competitors and backbiting, as well as by her own intrusive presence, with her questions about their beliefs in God, that you want to shake her. Same with her many digressions—including a long sketch of Darwin.

If ever text called for editor, this is it.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2005

ISBN: 0-7867-1488-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2004

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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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