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  1. I picked this one up at Hay-on-Wye in the summer. It was reduced and I've heard Steve Jones both on the TV and in person giving public lectures. Attracted not only by the fact that this was Jones - and reduced! - I was further intriqued by the Financial Times blurb extract: Jones is the Alan Bennett of science writing. OK for me, then, I decided. I rather like Bennett; at least Jones is not the Michel Foucault of science writing! Nevertheless Jones has remained on my shelf unread for 6 months while I read less demanding stuff like novels, autobiographies and memoirs of the not so famous. What a mistake! Coral is as gripping as any novel, a revelation to me about where I came from. I thought it was East Ham, but now I find I've been around for over a billion years. Furthermore, I'm immortal! Genetically speaking, that is. Not only is the book packed with insight about the nature of animal life, its origin, its random nature, its cunning methods of survival, but the book is human and funny, intelligent and approachable. Beginning with that seemingly immortal radio programme Desert Island Discs, Jones soon takes us to Darwin and the Great Barrier Reef where coral, a living organism survives in the mass for a very long time and is the basis of existence. Coral is formed by polyps 'the solid relatives of the soft-bodied hydra' and they are very sophisticated animals that give rise to corals that live only at the top of the sea where they can sustain life via solar energy. Corals may seem remote from us, but, Jones points out, they 'have more distictly human genes' than either fruit flies or nematode worms. But 'the big step forward made by humans or flies compared to polyps is that we have an anus: every one of us, however eminent, is a ten metre tube through which food flows, for most of the time, in one direction. Hydra and its kin are in contrast mere sacs, obliged to suck in sustenance and throw out waste from a single hole.' Now there's a thought to end with!
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