PositiveThe Sunday TimesLewis Dartnell’s new study of how geology and geography have shaped human history is a kind of Big History book, but it is better than many in the genre. This is partly because he is an academic who specialises in communicating science and is very good at what he does .. What marks Origins out, though, is Dartnell’s love for geography itself — for tracing the deep connections between the physical planet and the human world ... What emerges is an excitingly grand argument driven by delight in detail. And they are delightful details. My next dinner-party monologue will chiefly involve things I discovered from Dartnell ...
MixedThe TimesComplex, nuanced and cautious, yet it suggests that we are on the brink of a revolution ... Unfortunately, every advance in ageing research, and every chapter of this book, raises hopes only to dash them. It can make it a frustrating read, as well as a fairly demanding one. Armstrong is always clear, but she does cover a great deal of genetic, biological and medical ground. She goes into a lot of detail on Alzheimer’s, in particular, running through all the risk factors, suspected genes, probable causes, and so on, before acknowledging that up to this time \'nothing is clear\': we do not really know what causes Alzheimer’s, still less how it might be treated.
MixedThe Times (UK)\"All [the language Macfarlane introduces] is a delight, even if handing out lists of words is a peculiarly writerly solution to the problem of losing touch with the land ... This is not vintage Macfarlane, then, but there are moments when you taste it, when the writing is full of clarity and internal reflections, and the chapters ripple over into each other like, well, a linked chain of mountain pools ... But it is the glossaries that stand out, and by their very plainness they make the essay sections feel over-ornamented. The words stand so strongly on their own ... What is remarkable about these words is how precise they are, and how deeply local. They feel as if they somehow grew out of the land itself. This book too often feels the opposite; it feels somehow imposed and imposing, like a specimen tree in the wrong landscape. It is a faltering in form from a fine — sometimes too fine — writer.\
PositiveThe Times (UK)\"McGreal focuses on the impoverished rural Appalachian towns where the opioid crisis hit first, and hit hardest ... McGreal skilfully traces the \'web of interwoven corporate interests and specialists\' that funded reports, drafted legislation, cosied up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and did everything possible to keep opioids selling ... McGreal compares Big Pharma to Big Tobacco but, in truth, he does not find the smoking gun — which would be proof that Purdue knew that OxyContin was more not less addictive.\
MixedThe Times\"... resonant, wry, gently funny ... it is that ultra-distinctive voice (modest, profound, sometimes very funny) that knits this book together. It needs to, because it feels like a hasty edit. There are repetitions, and some science that should have been updated (the 2015 detection of gravitational waves, for example, is missing). And the tone is uneven. Hawking sometimes sounds like a guest speaker at morning assembly (\'you all have the potential to push the boundaries of what is accepted, or expected, and to think big\') and sometimes like the boundary-pushing, mind-stretching scientist he was. This can cause problems. I defy any non-physicist to understand Supertranslation Hair (one of Hawking’s final contributions to the science of black holes) based only on what is offered here.\
RaveThe Times (UK)To understand what this book is really about you need to know the ending of the quote in the title...\'The deeper the sorrow, the closer is God.\' Except that there is no God in this book, there are only terrible depths of grief, along with layer upon layer of neuroscience, philosophy, memoir, Greek myth and odd fictionalised encounters with — by way of two examples — a bereaved CS Lewis and an imaginary 90-year-old daughter who has uploaded her mind into a futuristic \'hive\' ... intolerably self-conscious and artful, as if no one should weave loss and neuroscience into such a clever pattern. I bridled occasionally. But I also cried until my throat stung and concluded that, as an exploration of love and loss, as a portrait of a person and of the nature of personhood, this book is about as true as any I have read.
RaveThe Times (UK)\"One of the great successes of the book is the way it balances narrative drive with the wider social and criminological context ... She also delves into Victorian and Edwardian criminology, noting how police did not then seek clues in the crime scene, as they might do today, so much as read them \'directly off the criminal\' — off his character, his morals, even the shape of his head ... This is a first-class book: pacy, insightful and lucid. And although it is never done heavy-handedly, it reveals some of the disturbing ways in which the Edwardian era echoes in our own.\