Otherlands is a voyage through the bygone menageries of Earth's past. But this book is more than a simple exploration of Earth's history — built firmly on the fascinating sciences of geology, paleontology, and evolutionary biology — it is also a passionate love letter to this strange little planet we call home. What makes Otherlands unique is the touch of poetry author Thomas Halliday weaves into the text, evoking a sense of the magnitude of deep time and the immensity of prehistoric life. Whether you love science, love nature writing, or are just wanting something new and distinctive to get lost in, Otherlands may be the literary expedition you've been looking for.
Ready to go back in time? Recommended By Nickolas J., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"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
"One of those rare books that's both deeply informative and daringly imaginative."— Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Under a White Sky
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.
"Vivid...An intricate analysis of our planet's interconnected past, it is impossible to come away from Otherlands without awe for what may lie ahead." — Independent
"Halliday takes an energizing spin through Earth's past in his magnificent debut....This show-stopping work deserves wide readership." — Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"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)
About the 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.