A World in the Making - A Sunday Times bestseller


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A dazzlingly original, lyrical and epic encounter with the Earth as it used to be

What would it be like to visit the ancient landscapes of the past? To experience the Jurassic or Cambrian worlds, to wander among these other lands, as creatures extinct for millions of years roam? In this mesmerizing debut, the award-winning palaeontologist Thomas Halliday gives us a breath-taking up close encounter with worlds that are normally unimaginably distant.

Journeying backwards in time from the most recent Ice Age to the dawn of complex life itself, and across all seven continents, Halliday immerses us in a series of extinct ecosystems, each one rendered with a novelist's eye for detail and drama. 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 fact. We visit the birthplace of humanity in Pliocene-era Kenya; in the Jurassic, we wander among dinosaur-inhabited islands in the Mediterranean; and we gaze at the light of an enormous moon in the Ediacaran sky, when life hasn't yet reached land.

Otherlands is a naturalist's travel guide, albeit one of lands distant in time rather than space, showing us the last 500 million years not as an endless expanse of unfathomable time, but as a series of worlds, simultaneously fantastical and familiar.

© Thomas Halliday 2022 (P) Penguin Audio 2022


  • 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

About the author

Thomas Halliday

Thomas Halliday is an Associate Research Fellow at the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of Birmingham. His PhD won the Linnean Society Medal for the best thesis in the biological sciences in the UK, and he won the Hugh Miller Writing Competition in 2018. He was raised in Rannoch in the Scottish Highlands, and now lives in London with his family.
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