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This is an exhaustive study of biological history and evolution, as it relates to continental drift, cladistics and other off-shoots and counterpoints to Darwin's theory. I had never heard of the field of biogeography until I listened to this book and now I feel very comfortable with the subject. The author begins with Darwin and then looks at each successive theory in turn, ultimately disproving many or tempering their strict stances with alternative possibilities. De Queiroz builds his case brick by scientific brick, until he returns to Darwin, who first suggested that many, if not most, of the breaks and bizarre pan-continental connections in the biological narrative could be attributed to seemingly impossible journeys across oceans by species. Darwin did several experiments but didn't live long enough to prove his suppositions. De Queiroz, however, with the benefit of DNA testing, cites numerous examples of plants and animals that could not have reached certain shores any other way except by ocean travel.
I found this book illuminating and entertaining. I've read Darwin, but I am not a scientist, so some of the theoretical explanations went a bit too deep for me. But de Queiroz works hard to engage the non-scientist and his enthusiasm for his subject is hard to resist. He brings to life many interesting historical characters, such as the gentleman-explorer who influenced Darwin and the passionate, if wrong-headed, Leon Croizat, who thought Darwin "congenitally not a thinker."
The reader does a great job with material which, while very well written, can be dense in its exhaustive detail.
I bought this book on a whim and I'm very glad I did. I learned a lot.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up The Monkey's Voyage in three words, what would they be?
Historical scientific adventure.
What other book might you compare The Monkey's Voyage to and why?
Ghosts of Gondwana, another book on biogeography. Ghosts of Gondwana focuses on New Zealand, and is very well written, but not so fun to read or engaging. The Monkey's Voyage doesn't go into such great and specific depth, instead giving an overview and history of the science of biogeography.
Which character – as performed by Jonathan Todd Ross – was your favorite?
Dr. Kary Mullis. I never realised he was such a laugh.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes! I couldn't, but I would have. But also it was good to savour it and spread it over several sessions.
Any additional comments?
Jonathan Todd Ross is American, but his accent is very easy on the ears, with excellent intonation. He slips up occasionally - eg. the "Olgigocene" drowning - but the slip ups are very infrequent considering his having to pronounce some very technical words. For some reason, the slip ups made listening even more enjoyable - they gave it character. This is an incredibly well-written book and I think anyone would find it enjoyable. Biogeography is the science of why things are where they are, and it has a fascinating history that has been told in such dull ways in the past. This book is so refreshing and enjoyable that I couldn't recommend it enough and I was sad when it finished.