Otherlands: A Journey Through Earth's Extinct Worlds
by Thomas Halliday (Author)
“Immersive . . . bracingly ambitious . . . rewinds the story of life on Earth—from the mammoth steppe of the last Ice Age to the dawn of multicellular creatures over 500 million years ago.”—The Economist
LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE • “One of those rare books that’s both deeply informative and daringly imaginative.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Under a White Sky
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, Prospect (UK)
The past is past, but it does leave clues, and Thomas Halliday has used cutting-edge science to decipher them more completely than ever before. In Otherlands, Halliday makes sixteen fossil sites burst to life on the page.
This book is an exploration of the Earth as it used to exist, the changes that have occurred during its history, and the ways that life has found to adapt―or not. It takes us from the savannahs of Pliocene Kenya to watch a python chase a group of australopithecines into an acacia tree; to a cliff overlooking the salt pans of the empty basin of what will be the Mediterranean Sea just as water from the Miocene Atlantic Ocean spills in; into the tropical forests of Eocene Antarctica; and under the shallow pools of Ediacaran Australia, where we glimpse the first microbial life.
Otherlands also offers us a vast perspective on the current state of the planet. The thought that something as vast as the Great Barrier Reef, for example, with all its vibrant diversity, might one day soon be gone sounds improbable. But the fossil record shows us that this sort of wholesale change is not only possible but has repeatedly happened throughout Earth history.
Even as he operates on this broad canvas, Halliday brings us up close to the intricate relationships that defined these lost worlds. In novelistic prose that belies the breadth of his research, he illustrates how ecosystems are formed; how species die out and are replaced; and how species migrate, adapt, and collaborate. It is a breathtaking achievement: a surprisingly emotional narrative about the persistence of life, the fragility of seemingly permanent ecosystems, and the scope of deep time, all of which have something to tell us about our current crisis.
“A poet among paleontologists . . . Think of a series of immense and immersive museum dioramas, with no glass separating you from the action. . . . The narrative becomes shockingly real and immediate, as individual dramas and entire, vibrant panoramas unfold in what feels like real time.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Written with gusto and bravado . . . Otherlands is a verbal feast. You feel like you are there on the Mammoth Steppe, some 20,000 years ago, as frigid winds blow off the glacial front.”—Steve Brusatte, Scientific American
“Halliday’s brilliantly imaginative reconstructions, his deft marshalling of complex science, offers a thrilling experience of deep-time nature for pop-science buffs.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Halliday takes an energizing spin through Earth’s past in his magnificent debut. . . . This show-stopping work deserves wide readership.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Otherlands is one of those rare books that are both deeply informative and daringly imaginative. It will change the way you look at the history of life, and perhaps also its future.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future
Categories : Paleontology, Environmental Ecology
ASIN : B0951PFKKY
Publisher : Random House (February 1, 2022)
Publication date : February 1, 2022
Language : English
File : EPUB, 17.84 MB
Text-to-Speech : Enabled
Screen Reader : Supported
Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
Print length : 409 pages