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Eros and Thanatos,
This review is from: Death & Sex (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Presenting people with a copy of "Sex and Death" might be a kind of interesting social experiment in and of itself. Which side do you read first?
"Death and Sex" is an innovative in both the concepts within and the physical design of the book. Both authors, Tyler Volk and Dorion Sagan (yes, THAT Sagan, although he doesn't make a big deal out of it), have written longer, more scientific books on their respective subjects (What is Death?: A Scientist Looks at the Cycle of Life and What Is Sex?), and the proposal was to condense down some of the ideas into a single volume that was equal parts philosophical, scientific and entertaining. The book presents Death on one side, and Sex on the other, and it is the reader's choice on where to begin.
Volk's work, "Death" begins with the philosopher Epicurus (a great starting place for almost everything, in my opinion) and goes on to a deeper exploration of just what "death" is. Cellular-level death occurs all over out bodies on a constant basis, and so parts of us "die" in order for the greater organism to survive. However, the individual molecules that make up our bodies have their own lifecycles, and will be dispersed from our corpses only to be swept up in the assemblage of something else until their own lifespans expire. Something that seems to be so easily definable becomes less so when put under the proverbial microscope.
Sagan's work "Sex" is a little more free-flowing, and Sagan is clearly more of an author than a scientist. This half is the more entertaining read, although probably the less educating. Like Volk, Sagan explores the various definitions of "sex" in our world, and the various tragedies creatures will endure just for that one brief chance of passing on their genetic code, or of bonding with someone, or for a momentary pleasure. Sagan breezes freely into some more radical theories, like the aquatic ape hypothesis and some simian hair-loss, or why pornography makes for more and better babies, or how AIDS is not actually caused by a virus. I enjoyed the diversions but felt some of the information might have been delivered with a qualifier.
All in all the two works compliment each other greatly, and the total package is beautiful. It's been awhile since I have been so impressed by a book's design as well as its contents. Volk's work is the more scientific, and I fear that Sagan's pop-culture references to people like Brittany Spears will date the book and keep it from becoming a "classic," but there are quite a few kernels here for an inquisitive mind to chew on.
Oh, and I read "Death" first. Not sure what that says about me, but I am sure it says something!