Otherlands – Paperback

Thomas Halliday

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  • Penguin Books, Allen Lane Imprint
  • 2022
  • ISBN 9780241510445
  • 416 pages
  • Softcover
  • 23.2 × 15.2 × 3 cm

This is the past as we’ve never seen it before.

Otherlands is an epic, exhilarating journey into deep time, showing us the Earth as it used to exist, and the worlds that were here before ours. Travelling back in time to the dawn of complex life, and across all seven continents, award-winning young palaeobiologist Thomas Halliday gives us a mesmerizing up close encounter with eras that are normally unimaginably distant.

Halliday immerses us in a series of ancient landscapes, from the mammoth steppe in Ice Age Alaska to the lush rainforests of Eocene Antarctica, with its colonies of giant penguins, to Ediacaran Australia, where the moon is far brighter than ours today. We visit the birthplace of humanity; we hear the crashing of the highest waterfall the Earth has ever known; and we watch as life emerges again after the asteroid hits, and the age of the mammal dawns. These lost worlds seem fantastical and yet every description – whether the colour of a beetle’s shell, the rhythm of pterosaurs in flight or the lingering smell of sulphur in the air – is grounded in the fossil record.

Otherlands is a staggering imaginative feat: an emotional narrative that underscores the tenacity of life – yet also the fragility of seemingly permanent ecosystems, including our own. To read it is to see the last 500 million years not as an endless expanse of unfathomable time, but as a series of worlds, simultaneously fabulous and familiar.

Praise:

An extraordinary history of our almost-alien Earth… Epically cinematic… The writing is so palpably alive. A book of almost unimaginable riches. 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
James McConnachie, Sunday Times

A mesmerising journey into those vast stretches of Earth’s pre-history that lie behind us, on such a scale that you experience a kind of temporal vertigo just thinking about it… [Halliday is] a brilliant writer, his lyrical style vividly conjuring myriad lost worlds… It’s obviously a bit of a gamble choosing one’s Book of the Year in March – but there’s a very good chance already that mine will be Otherlands. Stunning
Christopher Hart, Mail on Sunday

An impressive, tightly packed, long view of the natural world. In cinematic terms, this book would be a blockbuster… Riveting scientific reading; a remarkable achievement of imagination grounded in fact
NJ McGarrigle, Irish Times

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