Frank Close’s new book Theories of Everything is good, short, and to the point. Nima Arkani-Hamed wrote a similar albeit less historical essay in Daedalus in 2012 The Future of Fundamental Physics. Their basic conclusion is that science is locked up in a shell of space and time and has thus far not been able to find a way within space and time to a TOE that unites gravity and quantum. And thanks to Woits Not Even Wrong blog and his review of Close's book
Our intuition of a classical universe with cause and effect is a very useful way to predict macro action, but fails for micro quantum action. Evolution has selected our neural mind with a classical spectrometer that does not measure quantum phase decay. Evolution’s classical consciousness allows us to keep track of sources in space and time quite well.
Unfortunately, that same intuition is what locks us all up inside of a shell of continuous space and time, which appear to be the places and durations of source change. How matter changes, though, is really called action and therefore all motion in space and time emerges from the action of mass and all action is limited by a discrete quantum step as an exchange of a particle of matter. Therefore the quantum universe is a simple matter spectrum of action that involves shrinking matter and expanding force. Thus it is from the differential of action with matter that both space and time emerge as very useful ways for consciousness to keep track of source actions.
Close notes that the Higgs field sound a lot like the aether of early science and yet if the universe were made of aether and action instead of space and time, aether would not actually fill space. Rather it would be from the action of aether that space emerges and the same aether that makes up atoms also makes up the space between atoms. Instead of atoms existing in the continuum of space and time, space emerges from the discrete action of aether. Particular aether actions make up electrons, protons, and neutrons and then other aether actions make up the space and time between atoms.
Atoms change by aether exchange and particular kinds of changes we call motion in continuous space and time. General relativity works well at many scales because it is based on the basic notions of a space and time shell within which light speed is constant and mass depends on relative velocity.