Mining the most recent paleontological advances, a paleobiologist recreates 16 extinct worlds, rendered with a novelist's eye for detail and drama, showing up close the intricate relationships of these ancient worlds.
Wonderful ... Think of it as a kind of natural history travelogue ... And then unthink that thought, because this is an utterly serious piece of work, meticulously evidence-based and epically cinematic. Or rather, beyond cinematic. The writing is so palpably alive ... Halliday is equally attentive to plant and even fungal life — this is not a zoo tour but a series of fecund dioramas ... This is a book of almost unimaginable riches ... 'The brightness and diversity of life, its clamour and colour and conflict, leap from the golden siltstone canvas,' Halliday writes; 'even the transience of a song, a startling wing-flap, is made solid and lasting.' That brightness and diversity leaps from Otherlands too. It is a book that will make its own solid and lasting contribution. It could well be the best I read in 2022 — and I know it’s only January.
Densely detailed ... Vivid ... 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.
A brilliant series of reconstructions of life in the deep past, richly imagined from the fine details of the fossil record ...There are passing hints of how particular fossils were formed, and why specific locations yielded a rich haul, but the details are passed by – if you wan that kind of thing you will have to follow up the extensive notes. The exposition is also mercifully light on the cliches of Attenborough-style narration, where every scene seems to be either a mating opportunity or a meal ... Both omissions align with Halliday’s main goal, which is to give a sense of past organisms framed in ways of living that are part of a complete ecosystem ... It’s a commonplace idea since evolution became the accepted theory of how the biological world developed across our planet, or any planet. It has rarely been so vividly illustrated. Halliday’s effort compares well with other tales of Earth history ... Otherlands offers more finely drawn vignettes of past life than either. Composing any one of them calls for an impressive synthesis. Assembling the whole set is a real achievement.