Top critical review
Not a ground-breaker by any stretch of the imagination
on 13 June 2016
You pick up this book and you think to yourself, "Wow: look at all that great critical feedback!" You then start reading the blurb, and you think, "Okay, interesting - err, okay, this blurb is way too long - I'm getting bored now". It's never a good sign if the very blurb of a book bores you. Then you open the book, and if you've got anything like the same taste in books as I have, you'll wish you hadn't. It's VERY boring indeed. And that seems weird to me, because one of the critics who liked this book said, "Fortey isn't just your average palaeontologist; he can write too." No he bloomin' well can't! Honestly, I don't know whether said critic had taken twelve shots of neat vodka when they put that comment, but how could ANYONE find Fortey's writing entertaining?! It's as dull, boring and washed out as you like. Fortey writes so badly in places that some of the chapters in this book are about as enjoyable as eating a bar of soap.
"Well," I hear you say, "Fortey's writing skill aside, is the scientific material in this book good?" Well, yes, it is - BUT...and this is one brachiosaurus-sized BUT...Fortey doesn't really give us any new scientific material that we're actually interested in. I'll clarify. This book just re-iterates what we already know...and then adds loads and loads of tripe on top of that to disguise the fact that this book is such a cheap excuse for a natural history of life on Earth. We already know how it all happened, don't we? We already know the general history of life on this planet. So when you open this book, you're hoping that it will fill the gaps in your knowledge of the history of life on this planet, and give you a richer insight. Nope, it doesn't! It simply re-tells you the general story, and then adds page upon page upon page upon page upon page upon PAGE of random facts and figures, and sometimes even completely random references to fiction works and poetry, WHICH DON'T LINK IN TO THE MAIN STORY AT HAND IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM. WHAT has Fortey been PLAYING at?! He's supposed to be a bona fide scientist, not a geeky nerd who tries to parasitise cash off people by cooking up a waste of the rainforest in good-science-book's clothing, (in fact, even the clothing's dodgy; think back to that painful blurb!) One of the other critics who gave this book good feedback said, "The story of the history of life on Earth is one that needs constant re-telling." First off, to that I say, see?! That critic actually ACKNOWLEDGED that this book just re-told what we already knew! And second, I have to ask myself why that guy thinks that science books should be allowed to just re-tell something. I think that a book which does so is a heinous and manipulative waste of precious paper. But hey, that critic had probably had so much rum when they put that comment that they'd have made Captain Jack Sparrow look like a poised Kung Fu master.
Gosh, is there ANYTHING good about this book? Well, yes, otherwise I'd have given it a one-star without hesitation. There are SOME sections of it which bring across vaguely interesting facts and fairly entertaining narrative, but these are VERY infrequent, and most of this book is about as interesting as a hospital waiting room wall.
Really rather horrible, even for the little-informed. It contains about as much sharp science as an eight-year-old's dino book, and even that's me being generous. If you want a book which gives you an in-depth, readable, thorough account of the natural history of life on Earth, Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything comes highly recommended by me. Leave this monster to crawl back to the slimy depths from whence it came.