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Review - Bang!!! A Curriculum Vitae of the Universe - Siegfried Eckleben

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The basic hypothesis of Bang is rather a pleasant one - a CV of the universe, from the beginning to the evolution of humanity - but that does give the book the requirement to cover a huge scope, especially as it sets out to do so in a way that is understandable by the average person "from teenager to pensioner."

Siegfried Eckleben does well in putting across the basics of the big bang and the formation of the universe,  down to stars and planets, though the emphasis is very much on matter, so little consideration is given to (for instance) the nature of light. This part amounts to less than a third of the book. We then jump to the formation and evolution of life through to the development of homo sapiens, again told in a good straight forward fashion. The final part of the book is perhaps less satisfying, because it isn't really science, covering "common earthling fallacies and beliefs" and "actual earthling problems" - which in the end seems to be an excuse for the author to cover his pet subjects.

That this is allowed is one of the giveaways that this is a self published book. Another is the lack of detailed copy editing, which shows through from the rather charming way it has three page 2s, through to a number of typos that should have been picked up. Much of the science, before the book gets onto personal hobbyhorses, is sound, though some aspects do raise an eyebrow, such as the apparent certainty that dark matter is composed of the same fundamental particles as normal matter, and the reasoning for human being being hairless, which isn't compatible with Clive Bromhall's definitive The Eternal Child.

Perhaps the biggest concern with this book is the target audience. The content may be aimed at the average person, but it certainly comes across more as adult reading than a child's book - but Eckleben has used the device of having the book narrated by a quark called Yog. In fact Eckleben's name doesn't even appear on the cover - we're told it's "as told by Yog the quark". This device, apart from leading the reader to wonder what the eyes, arms and legs of this fundamental particle are made out of, does make the telling rather clumsy in places. "Yog" resorts all too often to telling us how he is having to use "earthling terminology" and other uncomfortable attempts to distance the narrator from humanity. The whole approach of being talked to by a quark called Yog who calls us earthlings might just about pass with an eight-year-old, but for anyone older it grates significantly.

Overall, then, a good attempt at pulling together the chain of events from big bang to human evolution - how we got here, in effect - but sometimes let down by lack of editing and the unfortunate narrator.

Reviewed by Martin O'Brien

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Last update 05 June 2007