I'm one of the people for whom a childhood fascination with dinosaurs never quite wore off. My career has taken me in a very different direction, although occasionally I wistfully imagine myself drilling a huge femur out of a cliffside in Mongolia, protected from the searing sun by my battered leather hat.
Bob Bakker, of course, fits that description to perfection. Not only does he have the academic credentials, but his enthusiasm and easy style shines through the text of his book.
His hypothesis is that dinosaurs were not the slow-witted, sluggish, lumbering, reptiles of Victorian orthodoxy, but instead were fast, agile, intelligent and ferocious.
He presents a cornucopia of evidence, from analysis of the ratio of carnivorous to herbivorous dinosaurs (similar to mammals rather than reptiles), to description of bone metabolism of modern "farmed" crocodiles (kept warm so they grow faster), to comparisons of heart physiology (a three-chambered reptilian heart would lack the power to pump blood up to the head of an Apatosaurus). All of this is presented clearly and lucidly within a strong conceptual framework: never do you wonder "where is he going with this?"
The evidence Bakker presents is tremendously compelling, and to my mind, overwhelming. Behind all this, however, are anecdotes and descriptions of his work which add hugely to the enjoyment value of the book: I particularly enjoy his description of all the biologists in the bar, with the mammalian specialists at one end crowing about the superiority of mammals, and the reptile specialists (herpetologists, or "herps") at the other, "muttering into their beers" about how wrong they are. Some of my best friends are mammals, but in this bar at least, I know which end I would rather sit at.
This book truly opened my eyes to the warm-blooded dinosaur view, and I've never gone back. Bakker breathes hot-blooded life into the dusty specimens in his museum. An enjoyable and informative read.