There are books where the opening sentence is crucial, and this is one: ""This is a book about perspective."" John Roddam means to take in the entire story of evolution, from sub-atomic particle to modern man. He sees this as a total process, with man the ultimate measure: ""We and our cousinly anthropoids are nature's masterpiece."" His anthropocentrism amounts to anthropomorphism: ""Stars that have no planets have no history,"" he says, as if stars should care. They should, that is precisely his point, and also the reason why scarcely thirty pages are spent on the astronomer's or physicist's data, less than eighty on that of the general biologist, leaving the remaining 110 free for the subject of Nan all alone. Mr. Roddam writes from the viewpoint of the scientifically aware layman; he uses all present-day knowledge as his starting-point. He has spent fifteen years on a book which is consistently readable and continually interesting, even though his premise may be doubtful. It may evolve.