Otherlands

Otherlands

A World in the Making - A Sunday Times bestseller

Summary

A SUNDAY TIMES TOP TEN BESTSELLER

Shortlisted for the Wainright Prize

'The best book on the history of life on Earth I have ever read' Tom Holland

'Epically cinematic... A book of almost unimaginable riches' Sunday Times


This is the past as we've never seen it before.

Otherlands is an epic, exhilarating journey into deep time, showing us the Earth as it used to exist, and the worlds that were here before ours. Travelling back in time to the dawn of complex life, and across all seven continents, award-winning young palaeobiologist Thomas Halliday gives us a mesmerizing up close encounter with eras that are normally unimaginably distant.

Halliday immerses us in a series of ancient landscapes, from the mammoth steppe in Ice Age Alaska to the lush rainforests of Eocene Antarctica, with its colonies of giant penguins, to Ediacaran Australia, where the moon is far brighter than ours today. We visit the birthplace of humanity; we hear the crashing of the highest waterfall the Earth has ever known; and we watch as life emerges again after the asteroid hits, and the age of the mammal dawns. These lost worlds seem fantastical and 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 the fossil record.

Otherlands is a staggering imaginative feat: an emotional narrative that underscores the tenacity of life - yet also the fragility of seemingly permanent ecosystems, including our own. To read it is to see the last 500 million years not as an endless expanse of unfathomable time, but as a series of worlds, simultaneously fabulous and familiar.

Reviews

  • 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.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more