?[W]onderful reading about a charming group of gone-but-not-forgotten creatures.??
?[F]ortey gives a passionate and often lyrical account of his life with trilobites.??
?Fortey is...a gifted writer who shares his knowledge with grace and verve...
. Trilobite is about seeing and the search for truth.?? The New York Times Book Review
The author of
indulges his personal passion for a singularly instructive extinct creature, the trilobite. Trilobites were exotic sea animals that first appeared more than 500 million years ago; their closest living relative is the horseshoe crab. In this book, the story of trilobites is the focal point for understanding evolution at the very beginnings of complex life on this planet. Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth
Since the age of 14, Fortey, now a paleontologist and author (Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth), has been obsessed with trilobites, which survived for a total of three hundred million years, almost the whole duration of the Palaeozoic era. "Who are we johnny-come-latelies," he asks, "to label them as either `primitive' or `unsuccessful? I want to invest the trilobite with all the glamour of the dinosaur and twice its endurance." That's a tall order, since the curiously shelled arthropod, whose closest living relative is the horseshoe crab, is quite disadvantaged in popular appeal when compared to that of your typical 80-ton brontosaurus and company. Although trilobites hold some fascination--they lived symbiotically, came in various morphologies and bore crystal eyes and segmented shells that let them roll up like armadillos--they are very hard to warm up to (one look at the cover of this book will prove the point). More problematic, however, is that Fortey seems unsure how to structure the book. He rhapsodizes at length about the biology of trilobites, but as if to soften the presentation for the general reader, he frequently digresses to more narrative elements. He tells personal stories, relates anecdotes about important trilobite researchers and offers his opinion on numerous related topics, such as why the Cambrian explosion wasn't an explosion at all. Ultimately, these elements cohere more into a patchwork of facts and concerns rather than a crisp narrative of scientific wonder and discovery. Readers may be drawn by the popularity of Fortey's Life but they will be disappointed by this latest effort. 40 illus. (Nov. 6) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Imagine yourself having a conversation with an enthusiastic and eccentrically charming British specialist on a kind of extinct arthropod, and you will have some idea of the appeal of Fortey's new work. "I have been enthralled by trilobites for more than thirty years. This book is both my homage to them, and an attempt to convey to others something of the pleasure that their study has given to me," writes Fortey, who is a senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. His unabashed trilobite-centric view of the evolution of life on Earth is full of personal anecdotes and asides, but it's also full of excellent science. There is an especially interesting chapter about the unique calcite crystal eyes of trilobites, and he even manages to make a discussion of trilobite legs fascinating. Fortey disagrees with the view of "disparity" of Cambrian life that was put forward by Stephen J. Gould in Wonderful Life (LJ 9/1/89), and his discussion lets the general reader understand the issues behind a scientific controversy. Fortey's best-selling Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth (LJ 4/1/98) was named on several "best science books" lists. Trilobite! is sure to be just as popular.--Amy Brunvand, Univ. of Utah Lib., Salt Lake City Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Fortey, a senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, fell in love at age 14 with the exotic, crustacean-like animals that dominated the seas for 300 million years, though of course he has only experienced them in fossil form. He uses them to explain the patterns and mechanisms of evolution, showing how they adapted to changes on a geologic scale during their long span<-- >continents moving, mountain chains growing and eroding, ice ages, and volcanic eruptions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Richard Fortey draws upon a lifetime of fossil study to reveal the history of not just trilobites, but the evolution of life on earth. Trilobites are relics of a very different past: this surveys what is known about them, evolutionary facts, and geologic history. Scientists and non-scientists will find Trilobite! fascinating.
Wonderful reading about a charming group of gone-but-not forgotten creatures...Fortey's burgeoning reputation as a first-rate natural-history writer will only be enhanced by this volume.
Times Literary Supplement
Fortey is a gifted writer who shares his knowledge with grace and verve . . . Some readers may bog down in the details of trilobite anatomy, but my advice is to hang in there. The next page is likely to bring a writing gem . . .
New York Times Book Review
Everybody's favorite stone creature from the Lower Paleozoic gets tender, revelatory treatment from British paleontologist Fortey (Life, 1998). Trilobites live quietly in their sooty slate, telling us more than something encased in rock ought to be able. Fortey listens closely and retells their story with paleontological flair:"Every tiny ruckle in the wall of Pentargon Bay is the legacy of suffering under a rule of tectonics so mighty that no mere rock could stand against the imperative of crustal stress." Through trilobites' eyes he describes their world, revealing aspects of evolutionary theory, the origins of species, the movement of tectonic plates. In a lively voice that glints with humor (darned impressive when the subject is a crustacean-like animal with"a spiny pygidium and a knobbly glabella"), the author covers the history of trilobite hunting, trilobite anatomy, his own days as a trilobite fanatic, and the disconcerting fact that the trilobite's eyes are made of calcite (like the white cliffs of Dover). The study of trilobites neatly and accessibly puts on display the creative part of the scientific endeavorfor instance, the animals lived so long that you can minutely see evolution at work by tracking the changes from the Lower Cambrian through the Devonian. Fortey takes equal delight in the curios of trilobite history (such as the Chinese habit of grinding them up and drinking them in potions), and he is endearingly crushed by dead ends in trilobite research:"Sadly, we do not know as much as we would like to know about the sex lives of trilobites." There are even strange, dreadful tales of trilobite hunters,includingone who disappeared from the trilobite firmament after being arrested by the Nazis (for"sexual congress with an Aryan woman") and shot in Lithuania. Fortey's"unabashedly trilobito-centric view of the world" is a wonderful, mind-boggling treat, disclosing an evolution of life and landscape as seen through a stone that is more compelling that most living creatures. (40 illustrations & 16 pp. photographs, not seen)