Here’s another—probably not the last—in the recent batch of books explaining modern science by referring to popular sci-fi shows. After a foreword by Lawrence M. Krauss, author of The Physics of Star Trek, the authors begin by examining a point evident to the most casual viewer of Star Trek: the presence in the cast of large numbers of “alien” creatures. Yet most of these creatures are basically human in form—a fact explained in the universe of Star Trek by a variant of the panspermia hypothesis, which postulates that life on Earth was seeded (accidentally or deliberately) from some other world where it began. The authors (both M.D.s; he is affiliated with the Mayo Clinic) then examine the factors that determine evolutionary divergence of similar organisms, focusing on a human embryo’s development of facial features. Research on chimpanzees and other apes sheds light on the limited range of facial expressions in Vulcans, or the total lack of expression of the android Data. Facial morphology also affects our judgment of an alien race’s character—as a rule, the closer to the human norm its members’ faces, the more likely a race is to be “good guys” in the Trek universe. They suggest variants that the show’s writers might profitably explore—sense organs that detect infrared light (common among snakes) or magnetic fields (used by birds for navigation). All these points are made by reference to specific episodes and characters, showing a detailed familiarity with the show. The authors go on to examine the factors influencing life aboard a spaceship (including the manufacture of food by a replicator), exotic life forms discovered by the Enterprise (rocklike intelligences), cloning, life extension, and other biological issues. All this is done clearly and good-naturedly (the authors are obviously fans), and, most importantly, without dumbing down the subject. Entertaining and informative, worth reading even by non-Trekkies. (For another look at Star Trek, see Jeff Greenwald, Future Perfect, p. 712.)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-019154-6

Page Count: 204

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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