In my opinion, Frank Ryan’s ‘Virolution’ does exactly what a popular science book should. It brings original ideas to a broader audience in an accessible and largely interesting manner. Essentially, it explains the evidence for the role of viruses in the evolution of all species. As a non-scientist reading this, I cannot speak for the accuracy of the content, but I gave a brief précis of it people with varying levels of interest and expertise, and they all said something to the effect of: ‘well that sounds right: how could that not be the case?’. I think that is also an indictment of how clearly Ryan presents his ideas; their lucidity and logic render them instantly credible.
Unlike other books in the genre, Ryan innovatively chose to explain his thesis by leading the reader through his journey of discovery. The sections where he recounts direct speech in conversation with eminent colleagues were not entirely to my taste. I would have preferred a summary of their contributions. Aside from these sections, I found the scientific explanations enjoyable, though I was more engaged in the first half of the text than the second.
As an editor, I thought the text would benefit from closer tailoring and concision. Also, I couldn’t help but notice some incredibly long sentences that became a barrier to understanding at points. Despite this, I generally thought the quality and tone were strong and the writer’s enthusiasm for his subject was communicated wholeheartedly.
‘Virolution’ is evidently a thought-provoking contribution to the field and is certainly worth reading.