Six Feet Over (3 stars)

MARY ROACH

Six Feet Over (Canongate)

POPULAR SCIENCE

Did you know that sea urchins were the key to understanding the process of sperm/egg fertilisation? Before microscopes came along, the theories of reproduction that reigned now seem ludicrous. In this entertaining history of science, Mary Roach provides rational explanations to seemingly mysterious phenomena in her search for conclusive scientific evidence about the afterlife.

Starting out as a hopeful sceptic, she works through reincarnation, the soul, ectoplasm, mediums and other ghostly goings-on, dipping into case studies, anecdotes and séances along the way. Just as she is won over by the eccentrics she meets, the reader is swayed by her affable style and clear mode of presentation. Although the effort to inject life into the subject of death is often grating, and while some of the findings are obvious and evidence inconclusive, there are great facts to pick up along the way and drop into dinner party chat. Especially about sea urchins.

(Suzanne Black)

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