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Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation
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About the Author
Michael Keller, an award-winning journalist and writer, has a bachelor of science degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Florida and a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Nicolle Rager Fuller is a professional illustrator, with a bachelor of arts degree in biochemistry from Lewis and Clark College and a graduate certificate in science illustration from the University of California-Santa Cruz. She lives in Washinton, DC, with her husband.
Top Customer Reviews
I have a strong background in biology and found the author's explanations of the process of evolution to be accurate and friendly to the average reader. This would be an excellent text to use for a high school or undergraduate course.
I do wish Amazon would post interior pages from the book so buyers might decide for themselves about the illustrations. My two cents is that they should certainly motivate you to buy the book, not dissuade you.
This would be a great holiday gift for any science lover on your list.
However the main point is that the Theory of Natural Selection was well covered and I think pretty well explained. I do have a few gripes (the reason that I did not give this book five stars) and these primarily have to do with content. For some reason Keller apparently used later editions of "The Origin" in which Spencer's phase "Survival of the Fittest" was added. Darwin did not invent this phrase and it was not in the first edition. The phrase, while true in the sense that "fit" can mean any adaptation that works to allow an individual to reproduce, does not necessarily mean that the "strong" overcome the "weak"and has unfortunately been utilized to imply that there are "inferior" peoples because they do not fit preconceived notions of superiority. I think that it would have been wise for Keller to explain this if he was going to use a later edition of "The Origin". I can also quibble with the fact that while Keller introduces Emma Darwin as Charles' wife on p. 26, he never really explains her background or the circumstances of their marriage (she was his 1st cousin), which certainly has some bearing on her relationship with Darwin and also her beliefs (she was a Wedgewood and was a devote Unitarian). I felt like page 25 was discussing one subject and on p. 26 a new one was introduced without any explanation. The death of Annie, his beloved daughter, discussed on p. 31, also caused Emma to doubt her beliefs and when Darwin died she actually refuted the rumor that he had recanted his agnosticism on his death bed. These are, I think, important points if Emma and Annie are introduced at all and I felt they were given short shrift. There were several other places in the book where new subjects seemed to be introduced without much in the way of a connection to what went before, but this may be more of an editorial problem associated with graphic books than the authors fault. Also toward the end of the book, some important points about modern theory were glossed over in my view, but again in a book of this nature some materials have to be cut. In addition I found an unfortunate error in that Robert Chambers' and John Henslow's occupations were reversed on p. 14. Chambers was a journalist and author (and the author of "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation") and Henslow was a botanist and geologist, as well as mentor to the young Darwin. The "Vestiges" is mentioned later in the book, but one gets no hint that Chambers is the author. The reader should not expect an in depth treatise on the subject in what is essentially a comic book, but these were errors that could have been easily avoided.
That said, Keller has produced a mostly understandable book that introduces the intelligent layperson to the principles of and evidences for Natural Selection. I might have written the book somewhat differently, but then I may not have been as successful in illustrating and publishing it. Those who want more depth to the background information on Darwin's life would do well to read Janet Browne's two volumes on the subject and those who would like more detail about Darwin's arguments should read a reprint of the 1st edition of the "Origin". However the more casual reader will find a reasonably good synopsis of the theory and its more modern developments within the pages of this book. It is to these readers that I recommend this slim volume, with the reservations mentioned above.
As to the quality of the illustrations, however, I have to say the cover does not provide an accurate representation of the art inside. The drawings are beautifully colored and laid out well, but the physical forms of the humans and animals (humans especially) are often lifeless and awkward, as well as looking rushed--and definitely not in a stylized manner, although other aspects of her art do show a distinct style. In all, the drawings seem more amateurish than I would expect for such an adaptation. Fuller does many things right, but the talent really isn't there.
Whether the quality bothers you or not is your call, however. The illustrations weren't egregious enough for me to put the book down; a serious artist might get more irritated. I'd recommend this book as a good introduction to evolution for kids, or an entertaining and educational alternative to reading the original text.