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parsed(2022-02-01) - pubdate: 2022-02-01
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Otherlands

Journeys in Earth's Extinct Ecosystems

February 1, 2022 | Hardcover
ISBN: 9780735238992
$36.00
Reader Reward Price: $32.40 info
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Description

*SHORTLISTED FOR THE JAMES CROPPER WAINWRIGHT PRIZE FOR NATURE WRITING*
*LONGLISTED FOR THE 2022 BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE*

Shortlisted for Waterstones's "Book of the Year 2022"

One of:The New Yorker's "The Best Books of 2022 So Far"
Telegraph
's "50 best books of 2022"


Sapiens for natural history: a stirring, eye-opening journey into deep time, from the Ice Age to the first appearance of microbial life 550 million years ago, by a brilliant young paleobiologist.


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.

About this Author

THOMAS HALLIDAY is a palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist. He holds a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Birmingham, and is a Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum. His research combines theoretical and real data to investigate long-term patterns in the fossil record, particularly in mammals. Thomas was the winner of the Linnean Society's John C. Marsden Medal in 2016 and the Hugh Miller Writing Competition in 2018.

ISBN: 9780735238992
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 416
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Published: 2022-02-01

Reviews

*SHORTLISTED FOR THE JAMES CROPPER WAINWRIGHT PRIZE FOR NATURE WRITING*
*LONGLISTED FOR THE 2022 BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE*


Shortlisted for Waterstones's "Book of the Year 2022"

One of:
The New Yorker
's "The Best Books of 2022 So Far"
Telegraph's "50 best books of 2022"

Praise for Otherlands:


"The prose is stunning, and the author packs the narrative with geological, meteorological, and biological insights, turning dry history into something fascinating. . . . Show-stopping."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"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-colored, and three-dimensional. You'll find yourself next to giant two-meter penguins in a forested Antarctica 41 million years ago or hearing singing icebergs in South Africa some 444 million years ago. Maybe most important, Otherlands is a timely reminder of our planet's impermanence and what we can learn from the past."
--Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature

"An absolutely gripping adventure story, exploring 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."
--Professor Lewis Dartnell, author of Origins: How the Earth Shaped Human History
 
"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."
--Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

"A dizzying and beautifully written journey through time from the present back to the very beginnings of life on Earth."
--Tom Holland

"Full of wonder and fascination, exquisitely written, this is time travel of spectacular dimensions."
--Isabella Tree, author of Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm

"An extraordinary history of our almost-alien Earth."
--The Times (UK)

"An intricate analysis of our planet's interconnected past, it is impossible to come away from Otherlands without awe for what may lie ahead." 
--ABC

"A bracing pleasure for Earth-science buffs and readers interested in diving into deep history."  
--Kirkus Reviews

"Forget the dinosaurs--Thomas Halliday's superb new book Otherlands will show you prehistoric sights that are far more unnerving." 
--The Telegraph (UK)

"Otherlands is an ingenious hybrid form of a book." 
--The Scotsman (UK)

"[A]n immersive look at pivotal moments in Earth's history. . . . Halliday's poetic prose position the reader as an observer who has gone back in time for a graphic look at 16 of the Earth's ecosystems at different times and places. . . . [A] highly entertaining read."
--Science

"In between the intriguing characters residing in the ethereal mountain glens and mysterious oceans are the bold hypotheses that lead readers to reimagine the dynamics of coexistence. . . . An intricate analysis of our planet's interconnected past, it is impossible to come away from Otherlands without awe for what may lie ahead."
--AP News

"This is a book of almost unimaginable riches."  
--The Sunday Times (UK)

"I was struck when reading Otherlands. . . . Like a thrilling nature documentary, [i]t's an immersive experience."
--Geographical (UK)

"One of the pleasures of the book is the menagerie of exotic creatures it keeps throwing up, from five-horned, sabre-toothed deer to the mysterious, aquatic Tully Monster. Yet Halliday . . . never loses sight of the bigger picture, nimbly marshalling a huge array of insights thrown up by recent research. Each chapter gives not only a vivid snapshot of an ecosystem in action--with needle-toothed pterosaurs swooping on a shoal of fish in tropical Germany, say--but also insights into geology, climate science, evolution and biochemistry. . . . [M]ind-blowing."
--Financial Times

"Each chapter focuses on a single place and time, from the relatively familiar vistas of Pleistocene Alaska to the teeming microbial mats of Ediacaran Australia. These accounts touch on some paleontological favorites--mammoths, dinosaurs, trilobites--but the real stars are the fantastical environments that once characterized our planet, including Antarctic rain forests, glass-sponge reefs, and valleys dominated by giant fungi. As alien as such vistas may seem, Halliday shows that contemporary ecosystems are subject to the same evolutionary and climatological forces, in ways that may point to an over-warm, plastic-strewn future."
--The New Yorker

"This magnificent debut is vivid, funny and well-researched; it is an intricate analysis of our planet's interconnected past."
--The Telegraph
(India)

"[Halliday is] a brilliant writer, his lyrical style vividly conjuring myriad lost worlds from the patchy but sometimes startling fossil records. . . . Journeying into the abysses of deep time in Otherlands certainly makes the reader feel very small and transient--a feeling both humbling and comforting--and surely reminds us that we pay our minor daily troubles too much attention. . . . It's obviously a bit of a gamble choosing one's Book of the Year in March--but there's a very good chance already that mine will be Otherlands. Stunning."
--Mail on Sunday (UK)

"Otherlands is a densely composed and ambitious piece of science writing. [A] rich, imaginative portrait of Earth's earliest days."
--Highbrow Magazine

"Halliday vividly recreates scenes from ecosystems that flourished from the relatively recent past . . . all the way back to the Cambrian, which saw a remarkable explosion of biodiversity 500 million years ago. In addition to celebrating the Earth's rich and incredibly diverse history of life, [Otherlands] also draws on the history of Earth's five mass extinction events to warn of the perilous period of biodiversity loss and climate change humans are causing today."
--CBC

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