I forget exactly how I came across this book, but the appeal obviously had something to do with the intersection of short stories with science, two of my favorite genres. Yes, this is a collection of short stories about science. Some characters & stories are fictional but all are at least inspired by, if not based on, real people and events. This in of itself is stunning. I’m actually surprised after reading it that I haven’t encountered this concept before. Why haven’t writers been interested in writing “fan fiction” about Darwin, Galileo, Mendel, or Newton? That aside, the prose is beautifully crafted and the stories are touching. They accomplish the same thing October Sky did: They remind the reader of the sense of adventure, thrill, and wonder that drives scientists as human beings.
My favorite story was The Marburg Sisters but I also liked The Behavior of the Hawkweeds and Birds with No Feet. The title story, oddly, didn’t do it for me. It felt too real. I’d have rather picked up a nonfiction account of the typhus epidemic on Gross Isle during the Irish potato famine than read a pseudo-dramatic short story about it. Not much sense of wonder, I guess, more of an historical exposé trying to place you in the shoes of the people who were there. Nonetheless, the entire book is cohesive and profoundly well written.