A magisterial exploration of the natural history of the first four thousand million years of life on and in the earth, by one of Britain's most dazzling science writers.
What do any of us know about the history of our planet before the arrival of man? Most of us have a dim impression of a swirling mass of dust solidifying to form a volcanic globe, briefly populated by dinosaurs, then by woolly mammoths and finally by our own hairy ancestors. This book, aimed at the curious and intelligent but perhaps mildly uninformed reader, brilliantly dispels such lingering notions forever. At the end of the book we understand the complexity of the history of life on earth, and the complexity of how it has come to be understood, as, perhaps, from no other single volume. The result is enthralling.
`This is not a book for people who like science books. It is a book for people who love books, and life... [Fortey] has written a wonderful book.'
Tim Radford, Guardian
`Read this book because it is, indeed, the best natural history of the first four billion years of life on earth.'
John Gribbin, Sunday Times
`Fortey writes beautifully and this is a wonderful biography of rock and life... He has restored palaeontology to its rightful place in the pantheon.'
Lewis Wolpert, Observer
`Richard Fortey is a scientist... but his big, rich history of four billion years of evolution is written with an artist's zest for life and language... In his last chapter Fortey quotes Goethe:
"Zum Erstaunen bin ich da - I am here to wonder."
Richard Fortey has the rare gift of making his readers share that wonder. Anyone who wants to understand how we came to be here on earth, 4,000,000,000 years after life began, should read this sparkling book.'
Maggie Gere, Daily Telegraph
`The tale of life needs constant retelling. Thank some happy accident of history that we have Fortey to tell it to us anew.'
Ted Nield, New Scientist
Richard Fortey is a senior palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum. He is the author of several books including The Hidden Landscape, which won the Natural World Book of the Year in 1993.