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Richard Fortey was a senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London until his retirement in 2006. He is the author of several books, including Fossils: The Key to the Past; The Hidden Landscape, which won the Natural World Book of the Year in 1993; Life: A Natural History of Four Billion Years of Life on Earth; Trilobite!, which was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize; Earth: An Intimate History; and Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum. He has won the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing About Science from Rockefeller University and the Michael Faraday Prize from the Royal Society. He was president of the Geological Society of London during its bicentennial year in 2007 and is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. He lives in Oxfordshire.
Fortey (former senior paleontologist, Natural History Museum, London; Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth) mingles natural history with geology as he rambles the globe seeking out the locations of plants and animals that appear to have survived to the present day from as far back as the Paleozoic era. He discusses how they currently fit into their ecosystems and shares information gleaned from the geologic record. Fortey admits that these "living fossils"-or living species that appear the same as species known only from fossils and that are without close living relatives-are unlikely to have survived for so long without changing, as it is the nature of all life to change and mutate. While this book provides a glossary, its major weakness is that there are too few illustrations. Readers unfamiliar with these little-known species will have trouble visualizing the plants Fortey discusses. VERDICT The information presented here will appeal to readers interested in living fossils; recommended with the caveat that images are lacking. [See Prepub Alert, 9/29/11.]-Betty Galbraith, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"Mr. Fortey is as vivid and charming about live things as he's long been about dead ones, perhaps even more so. Reading this book is like stepping into the field with a man who's equal parts naturalist and poet, equal parts E.O. Wilson and Paul Muldoon. It's a bewitching combination . . . You begin to love Mr. Fortey as much as he loves horseshoe crabs. You want to throw him over your shoulder, like a big stuffed animal won at a fair, and lug him home to explain the mysteries of your backyard . . . His book is not only well built and witty but emotionally profound too . . . an inducement to be as awake and observant as possible." --The New York Times "A lively writer with a penchant for slightly goofy jokes, a vast storehouse of arcane knowledge, and an inexhaustible fund of enthusiasm for his subject, Fortey is the perfect interpreter and guide to the marvels and mysteries of archaic existence." --The Boston Globe "[A] delightful account . . . even those squeamish about worms will find Fortey's enthusiastic excavations charming." --PW (starred) "In this fascinating, well-written book, [Fortey] offers a worldwide tour of places whose lands and waters shelter extraordinary forms of life that have overcome mass extinctions, sea-level changes, ice ages and other obstacles to survive into the present. Taking great joy in his trip back in time, Fortey plays both adventurer and detective as he searches for these ancients . . . Informative, engrossing and delightful." --Kirkus (starred review) "A magnificent book . . . Fortey's intense, humane passion for everything that lives and has lived is amply proven on every page . . . This book (like all his others) demonstrates that Fortey is, principally, not a scientist who can write, but a writer who does science." --Literary Review "Erudite and engaging." --Times Literary Supplement "A wide-ranging survey . . . Fortey keeps the long discussion lighthearted . . . Instructive and entertaining." --Booklist "Fortey leads us on a ramble that is not only global but takes us through aeons, to look at creatures that haven't changed much for hundreds of millions and in some cases billions of years . . . It's a great story, and no one is better equipped to tell it than Fortey . . . Excellent natural history." --The Guardian "Fortey has a unique way with the most humble of life forms, an infectious curiosity that can slide into near rapture, coupled with a lack of presumption that many of his peers I the field of evolutionary biology lack entirely." --London Evening Standard "An exploration of the world that went before. Fortey retains his characteristic ability to paint vivid word pictures of times long ago and places far away...Passionate, clear and comprehensive." --The Telegraph "Fortey tells a series of fascinating stories that serve to bring alive what is for most of us an unfamiliar past. Under his tutelage, fossils of all kinds--survivors or not--seem to come alive." --Financial Times