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A dazzlingly original, lyrical and epic encounter with the Earth as it used to be
What would it be like to visit the ancient landscapes of the past? To experience the Jurassic or Cambrian worlds, to wander among these other lands, as creatures extinct for millions of years roam? In this mesmerizing debut, the award-winning palaeontologist Thomas Halliday gives us a breath-taking up close encounter with worlds that are normally unimaginably distant.
Journeying backwards in time from the most recent Ice Age to the dawn of complex life itself, and across all seven continents, Halliday immerses us in a series of extinct ecosystems, each one rendered with a novelist's eye for detail and drama. Yet every description - whether the colour of a beetle's shell, the rhythm of pterosaurs in flight or the lingering smell of sulphur in the air - is grounded in fact. We visit the birthplace of humanity in Pliocene-era Kenya; in the Jurassic, we wander among dinosaur-inhabited islands in the Mediterranean; and we gaze at the light of an enormous moon in the Ediacaran sky, when life hasn't yet reached land.
Otherlands is a naturalist's travel guide, albeit one of lands distant in time rather than space, showing us the last 500 million years not as an endless expanse of unfathomable time, but as a series of worlds, simultaneously fantastical and familiar.
© Thomas Halliday 2022 (P) Penguin Audio 2022
The best book on the history of life on Earth I have ever read
Thomas Halliday's debut is a kaleidoscopic and evocative journey into deep time. He takes quiet fossil records and complex scientific research and brings them alive - riotous, full-coloured and three-dimensional. You'll find yourself next to giant two-metre penguins in a forested Antarctica 41 million years ago or hearing singing icebergs in South Africa some 444 million years ago. Maybe most importantly, Otherlands is a timely reminder of our planet's impermanence and what we can learn from the past
Deep time is very hard to capture - even to imagine - and yet Thomas Halliday has done so in this fascinating volume. He wears his grasp of vast scientific learning lightly; this is as close to time travel as you are likely to get
An absolutely gripping adventure story, exploring back through the changing vistas of our own planet's past. Earth has been many different worlds over its planetary history, and Thomas Halliday is the perfect tour guide to these past landscapes, and the extraordinary creatures that inhabited them. Otherlands is science writing at its very finest
Full of wonder and fascination, exquisitely written, this is time travel of spectacular dimensions - a journey into our planet's evolution and the world in which we live. A compellingly important read