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4.4 out of 5 stars17
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 30 November 2012
All Yesterdays represents a radical and wholly feasible re-imagining of prehistoric life. The quick, agile dinosaurs illustrated by Bakker, Paul and their followers in the late 1960s and 1970s revolutionised the ponderous image that had been perpetuated by Knight, Zallinger and Burian. But Bakkerian dinosaurs quickly became a new orthodoxy, adhered to just as strongly as the old had been. The Jurassic Park raptors of 1993 were direct descendants of Bakker's drawing from 1969. And although details have changed since then -- orientation of the hands, the addition of feathers -- the general body shape has survived largely unchanged in all nearly all palaeoart.

It takes art as radical as that of All Yesterdays to show us just how locked-in we have all become to the Bakker-and-his-followers school of life restoration. I don't think it's exaggerating to say that Conway's work is the first truly new approach to depicting extinct animals since the 1960s -- which means that All Yesterdays is not only the most beautiful but also the most important palaeoart book of the last four decades. Up to this point in history, we've had two dynasties of dinosaur art. I think All Yesterdays is the launch of the third.

And it is beautiful. There are some superb palaeoartists working in the field at the moment -- it's never been more dynamic and, in the best sense, competitive. But while the work even of some excellent practitioners is rather interchangeable, Conway's pieces are always instantly recognisable because he is an artist first and a palaeoartist second. Others may be more accomplished or have better technique, but Conway's palaeoart has an evocative and even poignant quality that is very rare, maybe unique.

Of course, none of this is to say that all the speculation in All Yesterdays is correct. But the crucial point is this: neither is the speculation in all the other palaeoart of the last forty years. It encodes assumptions and speculations just as much as Conway's does: but those assumptions and speculations have been invisible precisely because they have been so ubiquitous. Part of the value of All Yesterdays is that it gives us a proper perspective, for the first time, on ideas that we've accepted too readily through repetition and lack of challenge. So even when All Yesterdays is wrong, it performs a valuable function. Hopefully it will push the second-dynasty artists to raise their games.

Anyone who loves dinosaurs, science or art will find this book intensely rewarding. Anyone who loves all three will find it a necessity. Enthusiasts will probably want a printed copy rather than the e-Book.

The more I think about All Yesterdays, the more I think it's the book of which, in 20 years' time, freshly qualified palaeontologists will say "That was the book that got me started as a kid."
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on 26 November 2012
I have a confession to make. I've always been disappointed by reconstructions of dinosaurs.

When I was growing up they were either grey, brown or green and invariably scaly, and just didn't look like real animals. They were depicted in the same boringly cliched poses and activities. Even post Jurassic Park, when they suddenly sprouted feathers, they still looked like freakish, half-mummified chimaeras.

This informative, accessible book seeks to explain why, while delighting us with imaginative pictures of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures caught being just as diverse and behaviourally interesting as extant animals.

It's split into two parts. The first reconstructs fossil animals while trying to avoid the common errors and limitations of past reconstructions. The second, more whimsical (and short) section illustrates the effect those errors and limitations can have by reconstructing modern animals from imperfect fossils.

The art is simple and lovely, the text easy to read without being dumbed down (the intro is actually the trickiest bit, and for the few potentially unfamiliar scientific terms used, there's a short glossary at the back. For the real enthusiasts, there's also a full bibliography for further reading). As a Kindle e book the colour pictures expand gloriously on a retina iPad, allowing you to see every brush stroke. It's great to see dinosaurs looking interesting at last, in all their weird, well-fed and occasionally cute glory!
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on 28 January 2015
The world of palaeontology has gone through some rather major shake-ups in the last decade or so and our understanding of just what dinosaurs and their contemporaries looked like has been right at the epicentre. It's about time we started to similarly shake-up palaeo-art and hopefully this book will be the first of many to address just that!
If you have any interest in palaeontology, biology or anatomical art then I cannot recommend this book enough. The idea is an extremely simple one: take a look at how dinosaurs and other extinct creatures are most commonly portrayed and ask why? Yet, to my knowledge, no one else has actually addressed this fascinating topic, let alone produced a host of fantastic illustrations to go along with their counter-points. The quality of the illustrations does vary a little, but that's to be expected in a book with multiple contributors; plus, every piece has been cleverly designed to highlight a specific problem with your average palaeo-artist's work.
Frankly, if all this book contained was images of "classic" palaeo-art and the artist's re-imagined (yet equally plausible) take on the same scene it would be interesting enough, but the in depth discussion that accompanies each piece is often astonishing. Conway and Naish have a fantastic way of writing that captures their own excitement surrounding the subjects and also manages to be factual and educational. They're also not afraid to put their necks on the line, with some wonderfully weird ideas making the cut, nor admit to their/the field's failings and limitations when it comes to guesstimating appearance and behaviour from, ostensibly, rocks.
Then, of course, there is All Tomorrows. Though it occupies the end quarter of All Yesterdays, in many ways All Tomorrows is worthy of being a book just by itself. By juxtaposing the subject from the unknown creatures of the past to applying palaeo-art and speculative behaviour modelling to animals from the present, All Tomorrows serves both as a reminder that, ultimately, we're always bound to be a little bit wrong, as well as driving home the many problems with current palaeo-art techniques the book is initially set up to confront. Basically, I came for the images of protoceratops climbing trees, but I stayed for the nightmare that is vampiric baboons!

A fantastic book that will occupy a place of pride on my book shelf for many years to come.
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on 29 October 2014
Bored by dinosaurs always looking the same? Ever wondered what they might have actually done other than stomp, and roar, and bite? This little gem takes an iconoclastic look at dinosaurs, challenging us to think again, think a little more boldly and think outside the box. Excellent ideas, interestingly illustrated. I really want the front cover print on my living room wall! But "only" 4 stars because a bit more of the dinosaurs would be good, and a bit less of the "what will palaeontologists of the future make of today's creatures if they only found a few bits of our skeletons?". More importantly while this book makes the basically sound observation that the possible range of dinosaur behaviours is not adequately illustrated across the body of dinosaur literature, its lamentable failure to reference "The Dinosaurs" by Preiss and Stout does call into question the authors' knowledge base. "The Dinosaurs" (1980 ... ish) is a truly seminal, visually stunning work, the express intention of which was to look at dinosaur behaviour in the round. For "All Yesterdays" to either be unaware of this book, or even worse to be aware yet fail to mention it, is a rather large Achilles heel given the territory it claims for itself. Still, a very good book, and I see the price is coming down a little from when I bought it.
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on 25 October 2013
A very odd book, almost a part of the growing genre of "speculative evolution", but based on real fossils and cleverly questioning our interpretations of those fossils. It's on one hand very specialised in deconstructing dinosaur art, but on the other hand, very accessible and enchanting because it reminds us that dinosaurs were not mere structures of bones, but living creatures with their own idiosyncratic behaviour. We might never know how they behaved, but we are reminded nonetheless that they were real living creatures, which could be as odd and as unpredictable as any creature alive today. It has to be seen in the context of other books on dinosaurs, but as such, I highly recommend it.
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on 30 May 2013
This was a very lovely book and is, as it says, speculative in the extreme. Nice art work illustrates some great ideas and it is a charming book, if a little thin for the cost. You could read this in an evening.
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on 31 December 2014
This is a self published book and the format is a little odd, it is quite a slim volume, some of the pages though blank are still numbered and it needs a few tweaks, but being a Lulu publisher myself I find some of the formatting issues a bit awkward and so I recognised the issues the authors probably encountered. The book could be better if the format was different, more comic book shaped. Also buy this direct from Lulu.com and use the promo codes, you'll save some more!
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on 5 September 2013
The authors are quite right to observe that we could not predict the life appearance of some modern animals from their skeletons alone. This provides the starting point for some surprising, but always plausible reconstructions of dinosaurs we all know. It will make you look at dinosaurs in a different light. A perfect gift for dinosaur buffs.
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on 2 March 2016
Really interesting look into the ways that reconstructions of Dinosaurs are warped by the lack of soft tissue preservation, lack of imagination, and by incorrect initial assumptions. This is absolutely worth reading if you have any interest in this subject at all
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on 10 September 2014
Great concept but I was disappointed by many of the illustrations and by the fact that almost half the book was dedicated to illustrations of extant animals such as cats, cows and rabbits, albeit reimagined. Slightly high in price also.
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