Richard Fortey's Survivors

Bad weather on a day off always provides an opportunity to finish off a partly read book. Last week I finally managed to finish the latest delightful and informative book by this skilful and genial writer. Unlike those contemporary novelists who like to display their research by lacing their texts with indigestible lumps of learning, or those popular science writers who litter their books with rants and lectures about their hobby horses of the moment, Fortey is like an erudite uncle who just can’t resist sharing the fascinating lumber that he has acquired through a lifetime. Not a show off, not a ranter, but an enthusiast who wants to share his joy in such as the blue blooded horseshoe crab and the rare Majorcan midwife toad- the former not a crab, the latter not a toad!The book is a lament at all the wildlife we have lost and are in the process of losing, but also a celebration of those that have beaten all the odds. I like his metaphor of the steeplechase to describe the journey, from before the dinosaurs to the present, that most of his subjects have taken.

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