Sunday, 15 January 2006

Book Review: The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch ( Pratchett, Stewart & Cohen)

I finished this book last month, but I didn't get around to reviewing it until now, mostly because I had other books to read first, and I also didn't know how to write this review... sigh.

Oh well, here goes, in the latest installment of Eyeris' Hopefully-Weekly-Book-Review which is turning out to be a Hopefully-Fortnightly-Book-Review - Terry Pratchett's co-written Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch!

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Title: The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch
Authors: Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen

(We all know who Pratchett is, but who are the other two? Well, according to the book sleeves, Ian Stewart is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick and an outstanding contributor to the public understanding of science. Jack Cohen is a biologist and science writer, and long-time collaborator of Ian Stewart’s.)


Synopsis (From Amazon.com):
This is the third book (duh) in the Science of Discworld series, in which apparently Earth (called 'Roundworld' in Discworld) was 'created' by the Wizards of the Unseen University, and they are the ones who have to take care of it. Or something like that. Anyway, in this book, the wizards discover to their cost that it’s no easy task to change history.

Roundworld is in trouble again, and this time it looks fatal. Having created it in the first place, the wizards of Unseen University feel vaguely responsible for its safety. They know the creatures that lived there escaped the impending Big Freeze by inventing the space elevator — they even intervened to rid the planet of a plague of elves, who attempted to divert humanity onto a different time track. But now it’s all gone wrong — Victorian England has stagnated and the pace of progress would embarrass a limping snail. Unless something drastic is done, there won’t be time for anyone to invent space flight, and the human race will be turned into ice-pops.

Why, though, did history come adrift? Was it Sir Arthur Nightingale’s dismal book about natural selection? Or was it the devastating response by an obscure country vicar called Charles Darwin whose bestselling Theology of Species made it impossible to refute the divine design of living creatures?

Can the God of Evolution come to humanity’s aid and ensure Darwin writes a very different book? And who stopped him writing it in the first place?

What I liked:
  • I learned a thing or two about the theory of evolution
  • The Wizards are funny
  • The part when the Wizards appear are like oasis' in a book of dreary science
  • The writing is simple enough and explain the science quite well at times. AT TIMES.

What I Didn't Like:
  • A little tedious lor... no, make that MORE than a little tedious.
  • Also a little too long-winded at times
  • Not enough Pratchett
  • I didn't see the point in some of their analysis'

What I Thought:

Despite being a big fan of Pratchett and Discworld, I'm not exactly enamoured with the Science of Discworld series. I started the second one, but somehow I couldn't quite finish it. Don't ask me why.

Anyway, I managed to finish this after a few MONTHS, and I have to say, I'm not sure I wanna start on the first two.

You see, I'm not very fond of science and non-fiction. SCIENCE FICTION I can handle, non-fiction that involves science, I really don't like. So sue me.

But well, some people may like this kind of books. After all, it explains scientific stuff in a relatively simple way, and it keeps Pratchett-fans happy by interjecting a few chapters of the Wizards running around saving Roundworld in between mutiple chapters of Cohen and Stewart babbling on about steam engines, evolution, DNA and... well, you get the drift.

Well, they give relatively simple explanations about the topics they are talking about, but somehow... it didn't make me wanna read too much in one go.

Sorry to folks who might have liked it, but this is one Discworld (well, somewhat Discworld) book that I really couldn't get into. Maybe it's just me and my non-interest in science and non-fiction, but if the purpose of this book was to make me understand science better, well, it worked, somewhat, but not as effective as it should have been.

Oh, if you insist on learnign about science in an easy and funny way anyway, I'm guessing Bill Bryson's book A Short History of Nearly Everything would be a slightly better bet I think.

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