It’s been a long time since the history of technology has been recounted as the triumph of plucky heroes, and Johnson’s stories reflect today’s more sophisticated understanding ... Sometimes the anti-heroism goes too far — Norman Borlaug, whose Green Revolution saved a billion lives, is unmentioned. But altogether, Johnson is a fine storyteller ... Human interest aside, Extra Life is an important book. Johnson shakes us out of our damnable ingratitude and explains features of modernity that are reviled by sectors of the right and left: government regulation, processed food, high-tech farming, big data and bureaucracies like the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. He is open about their shortcomings and dangers. But much depends on whether we see them as evils that must be abolished or as lifesavers with flaws that must be mitigated.
Blending scientific examples with medical discoveries, the narrative remains engaging and accessible from chapter to chapter, especially where Johnson effectively describes how illnesses that were once considered terminal have become manageable conditions. The thoroughly documented book includes numerous charts and an extensive index ... Johnson, as in his previous works, digs into his subject to highlight new connections and interrelated facts that produce fascinating and sometimes unexpected insights. A smoothly written book of medical wonder that pays specific attention to racial disparities in health care.
Johnson argues convincingly that critical changes occur not from the endeavors of lone geniuses but from a network of researchers, activists, reformers, publicists, producers, and marketers ... Entertaining, wide-ranging, and—in light of Covid-19—particularly timely.
... thorough if unsatisfying ... The breadth of fields that Johnson calls on makes for a wide-ranging survey, but it fails to gel into a cohesive narrative. While informative, this one doesn’t come together.