A British naturalist offers a history of the plant and animal invaders of the British isles, spanning thousands of years of arrivals and escapes. Yet it’s often hard to work out what is actually native versus what is foreign.
This book is full of tapeworm-like gems ... Eatherley has the unflagging curiosity of a Victorian explorer. The man seems to be indefatigable as he hacks away at Himalayan balsam (the pink, flowery weed that lines almost every riverbank in Britain) or goes on patrol for invasive signal crayfish in the River Barle. He’s not afraid to get wet, dirty or tired on his mission to get up close and personal with intruders of all shapes and sizes. It feels as if we are on the front line with him.
While it’s an interesting—though by necessity often repetitive—read, it seldom evokes the ferocious dynamism of the changes wrought by non-natives. Like much modern nature writing, Invasive Aliens has the feel of an extended magazine feature (not helped by the author’s fluent journalese). Eatherley combines potted species histories with site visits (deer at Woburn, quagga mussels at Staines Moor) and ecological detail, delivered knowledgeably and with authority ... Only at the beginning and end of the book, however, does he really address and engage robustly with the philosophical complexity of his subject. One needn’t subscribe to the unorthodox arguments of Fred Pearce’s The New Wild and Ken Thompson’s Where Do Camels Belong? to wish that the rest of this book had a little more of their zest and animation. Eatherley is very good on the new fronts opened up in invasion ecology by changes in human behaviour
... a path of painstaking research about the history of plant and animal invaders to the British Isles—a tale spanning thousands of years, entertainingly told in [this] wonderful book ... There is much here that is eye-opening ... [the] Victorian period is fascinating and Eatherley introduces us to many of the characters of the day.