What would it be like to experience the ancient landscapes of the past as we experience the reality of nature today? To actually visit the Jurassic or Cambrian worlds, to wander among their spectacular flora and fauna, to witness their continental shifts? In Otherlands, the multi-talented 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 sixteen lost ecosystems, each one rendered with a novelist’s eye for detail and drama. Every description – whether the colour of a beetle’s shell, the shambling rhythm of pterosaurs in flight or the lingering smell of sulphur in the air – is grounded in fact. We visit the birthplace of humanity on the shores of the great lake Lonyumun, in Pliocene-era Kenya; in the Miocene, we hear the crashing of the highest waterfall the world has ever known as it fills the evaporated Mediterranean Sea; we encounter forests of giant fungus nine metres tall in Devonian-era Scotland; and we gaze at the light of a full and enormous moon in the Ediacaran sky, when life hasn’t yet reached land.
To read Otherlands is to time travel, to see the last 550 million years not as an endless expanse of unfathomable time, but as a series of worlds, simultaneously fantastical and familiar.
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