Referring to Lewis Carroll's Red Queen from Through the Looking-Glass, a character who has to keep running to stay in the same place, Matt Ridley demonstrates why sex is humanity's best strategy for outwitting its constantly mutating internal predators. The Red Queen answers dozens of other riddles of human nature and culture including why men propose marriage, the method behind our maddening notions of beauty, and the disquieting fact that a woman is more likely to conceive a child by an adulterous lover than by her husband. Brilliantly written, The Red Queen offers an extraordinary new way of interpreting the human condition and how it has evolved.
The author, a science journalist, draws on a wide range of sources (which he notes and annotates) to present some biological (unromantic) reasons behind seduction and sexism, beauty and polygamy, attraction and adultery. The title refers to Lewis Carroll's character in Through the Looking Glass who told Alice "we must run as fast as we can just to stay in the same place," her comment being used metaphorically for evolution. For the lay audience. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)