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The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA

Review

The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA

written by Mark Schultz, illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon

Those of us who didn’t exactly fly through our science courses (there’s a reason some of us turned to English) will appreciate The Stuff of Life. I imagine most everyone would, even the scientists and science enthusiasts who managed to grasp difficult theories and concepts early on. The Stuff of Life is incredibly thorough and, best of all, wonderfully accessible for experts and laymen alike.

The book has already been tagged with high praise and awards (a Great Graphic Novels for Teens nominee from YALSA, a Scientific American Book Club Alternate Selection, a feature in Wired magazine). It’s a bit difficult to decide where to place the book: It’s scientifically accurate, a point it rightfully prides itself on, but it’s also a quite fictional account of an asexual alien race attempting to learn more about our planet. So, fiction it is, but keep in mind that the data is sound here. In fact, the book is the first in a planned series devoted to teaching real and accurate science through graphic novels.

Writer Mark Schultz and artists Zander and Kevin Cannon deserve praise for taking such potentially dry topic material and making it not only understandable but also fresh. It’s not childish (although it does have touches of that) and it’s not so irreverent that it misses its own point. The Stuff of Life has a daunting task: Walk the fine line between education and entertainment without veering too far off into either direction.

It succeeds in that way because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Science, on the other hand, is a different matter entirely. That it definitely takes seriously. The entire scope of genetics gets its due throughout the book, spanning some five million years of human existence and incorporating the vast and wonderful array of life on the planet. The book has a distinct sense of wonder about the entire thing, and it’s hard not to get swept up in it. It’s just so exciting to think about, so awe-inspiring and incredible. It turns out there was a lot we all should have been paying attention to in science class. Luckily, it’s not too late.

Reviewed by John Hogan on January 23, 2009

The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA
written by Mark Schultz, illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon

  • Publication Date: January 23, 2009
  • Genres: Graphic Novel
  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang
  • ISBN-10: 0809089475
  • ISBN-13: 9780809089475