I was excited to read this book because… dinosaurs! I haven’t read a book about them since I was maybe nine, so I was looking forward to learning more about the ‘terrible lizards’ from an adult perspective. Steve Brusatte didn’t disappoint. He even kept me awake at night, such were the vivid descriptions in the book.
This is basically a biography of the dinosaurs, tracing them from their ancestors, through their dominance of this planet, to their decline at the end of the Cretaceous period. It’s a science book but everything is explained in an accessible way. What I liked most about it was Brusatte’s frequent links between the dinosaurs and us. He invites us into their world, sets the scene to bring the creatures and habitats before our eyes. In one chapter, he says he can see a dinosaur right outside his window. It’s a bird. Basically, birds are dinosaurs. And dinosaurs – most of them, probably – had feathers. The chapter detailing the apocalyptic effects of the asteroid, 66 million years ago, was so colourful that I could see the event all too clearly and felt pretty upset for all the species that became extinct. The T.rex has a chapter all to itself! And yes, there is a discussion about whether its tiny arms were any use.
One of the other great things about this book is the human side of palaeontology. The author talks about his dino-obsessed youth and introduces lots of his palaeontologist pals, all of whom enjoy traipsing around the badlands on the hunt for new species. The history of dinosaur studies is also a focus, starting in the nineteenth century. It’s fascinating. We also get to learn about the technology used to put together a picture of what dinosaurs were really like. My only criticism of this book is that some of the chapters seemed a little repetitive of others. I think this is probably because some of the material was previously used for other publications. Certainly the book could’ve been shorter.
I enjoyed how the dinosaurs are described as a empire which rose and fell, much like the Romans. The T.rex is, of course, the Emperor.
First published in 2018.