The Vital Question by Nick Lane

The Vital Question didn’t feel all that vital to me. I still wonder who is the intended audience for this book since it had so much hard science.

The Vital QuestionTitle:  The Vital Question
Author:  Nick Lane
Publish Date:  July 20, 2015
Genre:  Science Non-Fiction
Source: Audible Studios

Publisher’s DescriptionTo explain the mystery of how life evolved on Earth, Nick Lane explores the deep link between energy and genes.

The Earth teems with life: in its oceans, forests, skies and cities. Yet there’s a black hole at the heart of biology. We do not know why complex life is the way it is, or, for that matter, how life first began. In The Vital Question, award-winning author and biochemist Nick Lane radically reframes evolutionary history, putting forward a solution to conundrums that have puzzled generations of scientists.

For two and a half billion years, from the very origins of life, single-celled organisms such as bacteria evolved without changing their basic form. Then, on just one occasion in four billion years, they made the jump to complexity. All complex life, from mushrooms to man, shares puzzling features, such as sex, which are unknown in bacteria. How and why did this radical transformation happen?

The answer, Lane argues, lies in energy: all life on Earth lives off a voltage with the strength of a lightning bolt. Building on the pillars of evolutionary theory, Lane’s hypothesis draws on cutting-edge research into the link between energy and cell biology, in order to deliver a compelling account of evolution from the very origins of life to the emergence of multicellular organisms, while offering deep insights into our own lives and deaths.

Both rigorous and enchanting, The Vital Question provides a solution to life’s vital question: why are we as we are, and indeed, why are we here at all?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

I can appreciate the author’s ability to construct a logical argument and walk us through the work that’s being done to determine how life came into existence and what’s happening on the forefront of evolutionary science.

Part One set the stage for why this question was even important and how other research would effect or be affected by the answers. I liked how the author made the statement that life on other planets could be determined if it was proven how life formed here and that having the right answer would make it that much easier to predict life elsewhere in the universe. I was expecting the final chapters to be about just that. Unfortunately, that’s not what the author did.

The audio version of this book really fell apart for me since there ware many references to graphics to look at. It was very clear that those were available in .pdf and easy to access, but this is where the audience is so crucial. I am not a student or a researcher and had no intention, nor the time, to go find a link and open a .pdf and review the graphic in order to enhance my understanding.

badge3v4It did help that the narrator, Kevin Pariseau, was familiar to me from the Baroque Cycle series by Neal Stephenson. I felt I was listening to a science fiction thriller. Unfortunately, it just didn’t thrill me. I give it a 3.

Other reviews…

If you like this book…

…you might try The Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner.


About Agent Annie

I am a former Independent bookstore owner that created a 30 books in 30 minutes presentation for book clubs, libraries and avid reader groups. I specialize in short reviews that focus on plot, theme and discussion topics. I primarily read mystery/thriller, who-done-its and sci-fi/fantasy. I love stories in any format and will listen to an audio book as quickly as I would read a paper or digital version. I prefer books that make you think, don't have a predictable ending and tend to have some aspect that is outside the current norm. I tend to enjoy series once I am hooked on the main characters and the world and am very loyal. Some of the books I've enjoyed in the past are: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, The Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne & Todd McCaffrey and The Sherlockian Graham Moore. I will also read ANYTHING by Stephen King. As a matter of fact, I wrote a graduate level paper on the leadership styles in The Stand. I will accept review requests.

Posted on March 21, 2016, in Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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