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Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation

by Michael Keller, Nicolle Rager Fuller (Illustrator)

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Summary: This book is - for the most part - exactly what it says in the title: Darwin's On the Origin of Species presented as a graphic novel. The bulk of the book provides quotes from Darwin (maintained in the same chapter structure as Origin) over drawings of examples that illustrate his points. There is also a first section, that gives a brief biographical sketch of how Darwin came to formulate his theory of evolution by natural selection, and an epilogue that gives a quick overview of the advances in evolutionary theory since Darwin's time.

Review: Darwin's name gets tossed about pretty willy-nilly these days, but relatively few of the people doing so have actually read On the Origin of Species. (Which is in itself a shame, if for no other reason than because it's a beautifully constructed and very convincing logical argument.) I applaud Keller and Fuller's effort to make this highly influential and foundational work more accessible to a broader audience. For the most part, it succeeds very well; having illustrated examples helps to break up Darwin's admittedly somewhat dense Victorian prose, and to clarify the points he's trying to make. But I think where this book really succeeds is by letting Darwin speak for himself, for keeping it as an adaptation of Origin rather than making it a modern primer to evolutionary biology.

In fact, the places where I had the most problems with this work were where they deviated the most from the book they were adapting. I understand why they chose the examples that they did, but I still had a moment of cognitive dissonance every time they paired Darwin's words with an example that wasn't discovered until long after Darwin's time. Also, every time they tried to paraphrase or invent Darwin's words, rather than excerpting them, the result came off as jarringly modern and distracting. The worst example of this was the last page of the epilogue: they included in full Darwin's quote about "There is a grandeur in this view of life" at the end of the section that's adapting Origin, but then paraphrased it again at the very end of the book, completely killing all of that line's poetry in the process. But for the most part, they get it right, and in doing so fill an important hole in the popular scientific bibliography. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: While I suppose we can't require that every public figure and policy maker who wants to talk about evolution first read Origin, perhaps we could require them all to read the graphic novel version? Probably not, alas. Still, it's recommended for anyone who wants to get a handle on what Darwin actually had to say but is gun-shy about diving headlong into his books. ( )
1 vote fyrefly98 | Sep 17, 2011 |
I remember slogging through On the Origin of Species at University and although it was obviously interesting, it was a bit dry. I only wish this book had been around then! Although some of the illustrations - particularly those dealing with passage of time - can be a little confusing, all in all it's a fantastic rendition of Darwin's work. What's especially fun about this version is that they have included the history around the publication of Origin and they even let Darwin himself see into the future and get a glimpse of how his work has influenced the scientists of today. Even if you've read the original work, don't miss out on this beautiful book. ( )
  -Eva- | Jul 6, 2010 |
Comic adaptation by Michael Keller (scenario) and Nicolle Rager Fuller (art) of the life of Charles Darwin, how he came to his theories and the evolution theory itself as described by Darwin. Although the theory itself has changed a bit since his days (and as presented in the book), it gives a good introduction. The art enhances the examples and theory really well and is not only biologically correct, but also nice to see.
If you like this book, you may want to look at The Sandwalk Adventures by Jay Hosler in which Darwin explains his theory to an eyelash mite. ( )
  Papiervisje | Aug 8, 2009 |
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Michael Kellerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fuller, Nicolle RagerIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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A graphic adaptation of one of the most famous and contested books of all time. Few books have been as controversial or as historically significant as Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Since the moment it was released on November 24, 1859, Darwin's masterwork has been heralded for changing the course of science and condemned for its implied challenges to religion. In this graphic novel adaptation, the authors introduce a new generation of readers to Darwin's original text. Including sections about his pioneering research, the book's initial public reception, his correspondence with other leading scientists, as well as the most recent breakthroughs in evolutionary theory, this adaptation breathes new life into Darwin's seminal and still polarizing work. A stunning graphic adaptation of one of the most famous, contested, and important books of all time: "On the Origin of Species." Includes sections about Darwin's pioneering research, the book's initial public reception, his correspondence with other leading scientists, as well as the most recent breakthroughs in evolutionary theory.… (more)

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