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Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation
A stunning graphic adaptation of one of the most famous, contested, and important 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 Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, author Michael Keller and illustator Nicolle Rager Fuller introduce a new generation of readers to the 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 riveting, beautifully rendered adaptation breathes new life into Darwin’s seminal and still polarizing work.
||October 27, 2009|
|Average Customer Rating:
|| based on 24 reviews|
Average Customer Review:
( 24 customer reviews )
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47 of 51 found the following review helpful:
Beautifully Illustrated AdaptationNov 14, 2009
I heard author Michael Keller on Science Friday yesterday and bought the book on the way home from work. Contrary to the previous reviewer's comments, this graphic novel is beautifully illustrated. The reader has to understand that this is not intended to be a textbook. The illustrator and author have embraced the tradition of graphic novels created a book that is exciting, entertaining, and beautiful to look at.
I have a strong background in biology and found the author's explanations of the process of evolution to be accurate and friendly to the average reader. This would be an excellent text to use for a high school or undergraduate course.
I do wish Amazon would post interior pages from the book so buyers might decide for themselves about the illustrations. My two cents is that they should certainly motivate you to buy the book, not dissuade you.
This would be a great holiday gift for any science lover on your list.
16 of 17 found the following review helpful:
A Good General Account but With Some ReservationsNov 24, 2009
By David B Richman
The idea of a graphic version of the "Origin of Species" is a good one, as many casual readers will never get through the original. Thus a graphic format might be more easily read and understood by them, if presented in the right way. Years ago I found the book "Darwin for Beginners" by Jonathan Miller and Borin Van Loon to be a rather charming graphic account of Darwin's ideas. Now Rodale Press has recently published Michael Keller's "Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation" and I was interested in seeing how the subject was treated compared to the earlier work. At first I did not particularly like the illustrations (as noted by another reviewer), but styles differ and I while I don't think the illustrations are up to more rigorous scientific standards, they are more than adequate for a book of this nature. Boren Van Loon's illustrations, which borrowed a lot from other classic ink drawings and paintings, were also a bit quirky.
However the main point is that the Theory of Natural Selection was well covered and I think pretty well explained. I do have a few gripes (the reason that I did not give this book five stars) and these primarily have to do with content. For some reason Keller apparently used later editions of "The Origin" in which Spencer's phase "Survival of the Fittest" was added. Darwin did not invent this phrase and it was not in the first edition. The phrase, while true in the sense that "fit" can mean any adaptation that works to allow an individual to reproduce, does not necessarily mean that the "strong" overcome the "weak"and has unfortunately been utilized to imply that there are "inferior" peoples because they do not fit preconceived notions of superiority. I think that it would have been wise for Keller to explain this if he was going to use a later edition of "The Origin". I can also quibble with the fact that while Keller introduces Emma Darwin as Charles' wife on p. 26, he never really explains her background or the circumstances of their marriage (she was his 1st cousin), which certainly has some bearing on her relationship with Darwin and also her beliefs (she was a Wedgewood and was a devote Unitarian). I felt like page 25 was discussing one subject and on p. 26 a new one was introduced without any explanation. The death of Annie, his beloved daughter, discussed on p. 31, also caused Emma to doubt her beliefs and when Darwin died she actually refuted the rumor that he had recanted his agnosticism on his death bed. These are, I think, important points if Emma and Annie are introduced at all and I felt they were given short shrift. There were several other places in the book where new subjects seemed to be introduced without much in the way of a connection to what went before, but this may be more of an editorial problem associated with graphic books than the authors fault. Also toward the end of the book, some important points about modern theory were glossed over in my view, but again in a book of this nature some materials have to be cut. In addition I found an unfortunate error in that Robert Chambers' and John Henslow's occupations were reversed on p. 14. Chambers was a journalist and author (and the author of "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation") and Henslow was a botanist and geologist, as well as mentor to the young Darwin. The "Vestiges" is mentioned later in the book, but one gets no hint that Chambers is the author. The reader should not expect an in depth treatise on the subject in what is essentially a comic book, but these were errors that could have been easily avoided.
That said, Keller has produced a mostly understandable book that introduces the intelligent layperson to the principles of and evidences for Natural Selection. I might have written the book somewhat differently, but then I may not have been as successful in illustrating and publishing it. Those who want more depth to the background information on Darwin's life would do well to read Janet Browne's two volumes on the subject and those who would like more detail about Darwin's arguments should read a reprint of the 1st edition of the "Origin". However the more casual reader will find a reasonably good synopsis of the theory and its more modern developments within the pages of this book. It is to these readers that I recommend this slim volume, with the reservations mentioned above.
5 of 5 found the following review helpful:
About the art...Jul 04, 2010
By Nora Rogers
I can't really speak to the quality of the text part of the adaptation, not having read the original, but it seems an intelligent representation of the principles introduced by Darwin's theory. It is easy to follow, engaging, and informative.
As to the quality of the illustrations, however, I have to say the cover does not provide an accurate representation of the art inside. The drawings are beautifully colored and laid out well, but the physical forms of the humans and animals (humans especially) are often lifeless and awkward, as well as looking rushed--and definitely not in a stylized manner, although other aspects of her art do show a distinct style. In all, the drawings seem more amateurish than I would expect for such an adaptation. Fuller does many things right, but the talent really isn't there.
Whether the quality bothers you or not is your call, however. The illustrations weren't egregious enough for me to put the book down; a serious artist might get more irritated. I'd recommend this book as a good introduction to evolution for kids, or an entertaining and educational alternative to reading the original text.
5 of 6 found the following review helpful:
Charles Darwin's `On the Origin of Species:' A Graphic AdaptionDec 12, 2009
By Barney Considine
In less than two hundred pages of annotated color illustrations, this book attempts to cover Charles Darwin's large and complex volume. Obviously, the author has massively edited Darwin's original material. However, it is well done. The book uses Darwin's words more often than not. The selection and presentation makes it cogent to our time. The author often draws examples from recent experience. This makes the material more understandable and interesting to today's readers. The book targets young adults and the author has done everything possible to attract and hold such a reader. Whether it will be successful with any particular individual is unpredictable; it is a tough audience.
The illustrator, Nicolle Rager Fuller, deserves equal billing to the author. Her work is obviously an essential part of the book. Further, the artwork is perfect for this book and the target audience. If anything in this book will capture young readers, it is the art. Adult readers will find it pleasing as well.
The nineteenth century is crowded with great scientists, scientific advances, and achievements having impacts into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. To a great extent, those scientists communicated and fed off one another. The fields of biology, geology, archeology, philosophy, horticulture, anthropology, mathematics, sociology, ornithology, entomology, botany, and zoology were all advancing and reinforcing one another. This book brings out this fact and cites the names of scientists and practitioners with whom Darwin interacted.
The book is balanced, honest, and accurate. Unfortunately, anything dealing with Darwin is politically charged. The political right and left both use Darwin's name and terms such as "origin of the species," and "survival of the fittest" as negative code words. I feel that only readers starting with an unshakeable bias can criticize this book on political grounds.
Too frequently today, we see Darwin and his work in a non-humanistic light. This is regrettable. He was both emotional and introspective. He interacted with his forebears, his wife and children, and with his peers. The book touches on this aspect of Darwin's life, along with the scientific component.
Darwin anticipated many of the criticisms of his work; criticisms that began with his early publications and continue today. Examples are the lack of a continuous transitional fossil record, difficulty in accepting the evolution of something as complex as the human eye, and explaining animal instinct versus reasoning. He dealt with such objections at length in "Origin of Species." This book shows how Darwin addressed some of those concerns.
Wisely, the author chose to show links between Darwin's work and current material with which most people are familiar. At a few pertinent spots, the author includes a tie-in with recent developments. Some support and some contradict Darwin's conclusions. These tie-ins are well done. To conclude the book, there is an "Afterward" section addressing how Darwin might view milestone developments occurring since his death. Only in this latter section can I criticize the author for showing a bias. To be sure, some of the scientific advances since Darwin's death disprove some parts of his theory, but certainly do not discredit him. "Afterward" contains only examples that support Darwin's theory or explain issues that Darwin admitted that he was unable to resolve.
The book provides examples of the scientific method. It is a manageable introduction and overview of an important figure and revolutionary scientific advance. However, I would not consider this a book for young children. Both the reading level and the concepts are seventh or eighth grade and high school level. To follow the book, one should have a smattering of knowledge about natural selection. In itself, the book is an inspiring example of nature journaling.
Indeed, this little volume reminds one of a comic book, albeit one with realistic illustrations. Will it entice children? It is worth trying. Perhaps your son or daughter of the video-game generation will relate to the colorful, graphic approach.
1 of 1 found the following review helpful:
Finally Accessible for Young AdultsJul 31, 2013
No student should leave their high school without having learned about Charles Darwin and the work he conducted. From evolution to natural selection, Darwin is iconic for a true understanding of organisms and science of the five kingdoms. In this graphic adaptation of The Origin of Species, Michael Keller has taken this relevant book and created a version that preserves the language and true feel of Darwin's studies while making it graphically appealing. I think even Darwin would be proud of this story.
I am not going to go into depth with the story of Darwin and the Beagle because if you are looking at this adaptation, you understand the relevance of the book to begin with. But I do have to say I thought the original story was beautifully captured in this adaptation. Everything from the connections he made to come to the idea of natural selection to the controversy surrounding his theories was beautifully depicted either through the words themselves or beautiful illustrations that told the story in a different and equally as strong manner. Our students don't truly understand the risks Darwin was taking in coming forward with these theories, but this book does that controversy justice. The language holds true to the original, but with the illustrations, I think this story is finally accessible to your average young adult students.
I have been looking into graphic novels, but in particular, into non-fiction graphic novels, as a means to draw students into more challenging works. For instance, I loved the graphic novel Primates, and plan to delve into Feynman as soon as possible. These books are truly opening doors to information many of our students would not otherwise access. While they would benefit from this information in its original form, they might not necessarily choose a book written so long ago. This type of adaptation bridges that gap, and I am grateful for it. I look forward to finding more adaptations like this! So if you have a student studying biology who really needs to know about the life and studies of Darwin but won't read Origin? Pick up this book!
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