"Evo devo" might sound like an 80's rock band, but this book is one of those few that really does open the door to a new world of wonder -- evolutionary developmental biology, or the new and rapidly growing understanding of how a single cell is able to unfold itself, step by step, into enormously complex trillion-celled systems like us. And it's a story told here first hand, by a leading investigator of this new world, with warmth, passion, and humor.
Like Harrison's "Light", this is kind of fake sci fi. Watts litters his book with great dumps of pseudo-science jargon, acronyms, references, etc., that he shows no sign of caring about as such -- it's all used just to lard up a very thin story, and hide an impoverished concept. The concept, by the way, has to do with mind or consciousness, and its been kicking around undergrad philosophy courses for some time now -- not that it matters very much either, because even that banality seems just dragged in to add some weight to Watts' dismal, confused, self-pitying view of the world -- all emo, no intelligence.
One of his best, because this one really does have something important to say. Crichton's a pop novelist, though a good one, and like any such his books' "messages" almost always follow the easy route of repeating fashionable fears and alarums. Here, for once, he stands up to them, and, with a significant display of both research and independent reasoning that he blends well with his usual suspense, stands against the whipped-up, dogmatic hysteria that currently dominates our cultural media. It takes no small amount of intellectual strength and courage to do so.