Top critical review
9 people found this helpful
on September 5, 2001
This is an odd book. It is another brave attempt to tell the whole story of creation, this time using the oxygen atom as a main character. In some ways it works as a literary device, but in some ways the concept of the single atom just gets in the way and seems attached to the story even when the author no longer has anything interesting or useful to say about oxygen. The idea of following a single atom is more of a marketing device. There are parts that are well written, some that remain confusing, and more complicated than they need to be. I did like some of the material on the formation of the solar system. But, of course, the author is not able to do much with inflation. Actually nobody has, yet. Nothing new on quantum mechanics. (I thought his comments regarding our daily intake of material from someone else's sweat and sperm to be in poor taste even if highly original. His ideas of what can make a story more entertaining can be a little off. A good editor would have helped here. ) There is also a distressing lack of even simple charts and graphs and timelines which would have helped keep track of many concepts far better than referring to the atom as a unifying concept. A good budget would have helped here. Krauss is an earnest writer (I prefer Quintessence), and he knows what he is talking about. But with a little care and genuine interest from a good publishing house this book could have been much better.
Incidentally, Atom in no way compares to Jacob Bronowski's classics either in style, gravitas, or subject matter. If you are interested in the history of science or just the history of science writing you would do better to read them first before you begin to make comparisons with anything written in the last twenty years.