In his book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins took a subject—genetics and heredity—that many people believed they understood, and showed them just how wrong they were. Climbing Mount Improbable is a book of scientific exploration in the same style, involving the reader in the process and theory of evolution. The difference is that evolution, unlike genetics, is not a process involving even the simplest type of design, or even purpose. The author's task—achieved through a flair for simple explanation and a knack for choosing good examples—is to impress upon readers the sheer scope of evolutionary time, bringing them to understand that living beings are designed almost entirely by accident. It's a fascinating idea, and Climbing Mount Improbable, like many good books on hard science, often reads like a mystery. The reader knows the ending: In a sense, the reader is the ending. The tension comes from the questions at the heart of the book, questions which transcend the nuts and bolts of the subject matter and leave the reader in a state of wonder: Is it magnificent or frightening that human beings were created and shaped by trial and error?