Journalist Hayes' investigation of the Serengeti (The Last Place on Earth, 1977) led him to ponder: ""Is man a part of nature, or is he something that has come to exist outside of nature's constraints?"" Hayes' attempt to answer comprises three interwoven strands. From interviews with scientists, he synthesized a reasonably competent if oversimplified history of the universe--from the Big Bang through the emergence of life on Earth, to the current crop of crises that threaten to send us the way of the dinosaurs. Along with chunks of this material, he presents the interviews themselves: prickly astronomer Martin Rees on the Big Bang, testy zoologist Howard Evans on evolution; the infectious enthusiasm of Cyril Ponnamperuma and his ""primordial soups,"" Archie Cart and his navigating turtles; a cool and judicious Richard Leakey on human origins; and many more--all the way to E. F. ""Small is Beautiful"" Schumacher. The third, structuring strand, however, is the story of John Vihtelic--who, trapped for over two weeks in a car at the bottom of a canyon, invisible to prospective rescuers, courageously extricated himself. And in his absorption with Vihtelic, in his attempt to force connections (the ""three levels of time""), Hayes loses sight of the original problem, a matter not of individuals but of societies. The interviews often sparkle; the parallelism chokes.