PositiveNew ScientistOrigin bills itself as \'a genetic history of the Americas\', and it largely delivers on that promise. The final third of the book, in particular, draws on genetic and archaeological evidence to tell the story as we see it now. This section is a model of clear and nuanced explanation: Raff highlights the uncertainties and caveats, but doesn’t allow them to overwhelm the story ... The earlier part of the book is less clear in places ... There is the question of how the First Peoples got there ... The evidence is complex and contradictory, and Raff is admirably fair-minded in the way she handles it ... These sections are crucial to the story because they elucidate just how much light genetics has been able to shed on the big mysteries. Unfortunately, they jump back and forth in time, both in prehistory and in the historical sequence in which the discoveries were made, which can get a little confusing ... Despite this, Origin has many strengths. Raff is a critical historian of her own field, who casts a beady eye over the crimes and misdemeanours committed by earlier generations of archaeologists ... It will make uncomfortable reading for people still wrestling with the legacy of the European colonial empires. Some scientists may prefer that these darker episodes not be mentioned, but I tend to agree with Raff that it is crucial to face them head on. She argues that scientists studying the history and culture of Indigenous peoples anywhere in the world must be in constant dialogue with them ... Origin is a very human book.
RaveThe New ScientistWith her second novel, author Monica Byrne has pulled out all the stops ... When a book is this ambitious, either it is a thumping success or it falls on its face. Happily, The Actual Star is a stone-cold masterpiece. It is one of the most moving novels I have read and surely a contender for major awards ... It is a book that will resonate with me for a long time.