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Roston, a former Time writer on technology and energy, positively revels in the chance to dig deep into the ubiquitous, life-enabling carbon. He begins his first book with the science of this element: how the element first appeared when stars burned helium into carbon; how, before there was life on earth, plate tectonics drove the planet's carbon flow through the atmosphere, land and oceans; and how the development of the earliest organisms reshaped the carbon cycle. Turning to humans' use of carbon and consequent speeding up the carbon cycle, Roston is a whirlwind, explaining carbon's role in the formation of everything from DNA to Kevlar bulletproof vests and, finally, carbon's role in the earth's climate. This is what Roston cares passionately about, and the sum of the parts of his energetic explanations of carbon's uniqueness brings, for dedicated and attentive readers, a crystal-clear understanding of the global warming process. Roston never scrimps on explaining even complicated chemical processes, and the result is a convincing argument that the earth is at a crossroad, the time for denial has passed and the time for smart, innovative solutions has arrived. 20 b&w illus. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.