This is the first major book to present a comprehensive overview of the current state of extinction studies. At the end of the journey, Raup has put forward the best science of the day to answer the question posed by the title: Bad genes or bad luck?
Raup takes up a cocktail-party science topic--Why do entire branches of life ``suddenly'' (in geologic time) disappear?--and gives it weight and validity. Despite the catchy title, Raup's presentation is plenty rigorous, drawing in just enough geology, anthropology, biostatistics and yes, even the Alvarez meteor/earth cataclysm, to send readers looking for additional reading on current evolutionary theory. Fans of Stephen Jay Gould will find a similarly fluent and friendly lecture style here. University of Chicago professor Raup is coauthor of several standard graduate-level texts on paleontology and evolution. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Sept . )