Skip to main content

The Future is Wild – Douglas Dixon & John Adams ****

Subtitled “a natural history of the future”, this book (and presumably the accompanying 12 part TV series that the book accompanies) is a fascinating reverse of all those books looking backwards in time at evolution. Here the authors have beautifully speculated on how things will go in the future.
The book is split into three broad sections. One, set 5 million years in the future finds a largely unchanged world in the grip of an ice age. Here the animals may be unfamiliar, but they are clearly derived from current forms. In the other two sections, looking 100 and 200 million years ahead, much bigger changes have occurred. Continental drift has resulted in a reshaping of the earth’s surface. Creatures are developing significantly, with some creatures leaving the sea (imagine a land-based giant squid), birds taking to the water, and descendents of fish flying. Highest in yuck factor is probably some of the insect life, while most striking are the envisaged developments from jellyfish, huge and beautiful floating cities of life.
It’s stunningly illustrated (if one or two of the creatures verge on the cartoon) and much of the speculation is fascinating – all in all, an excellent achievement.
There are a couple of quibbles. Humanity is dismissed rather summarily. We are assumed to die out in a few thousand years because of the “devastating effects of our energy consumption” and because of the return of the ice age. These are rather weak assumptions, given human flexibility. Certainly we wouldn’t be still living in the UK under a polar ice cap, but that hardly excludes the tropics. It’s not that we couldn’t be wiped out, but there’s no logic behind the assumption, which is mainly made to conveniently get us out of the way – that should have been explicitly stated. Also, all the animals have names. This is nice, but who is supposed to have given them the names? Okay, it’s a bit pedantic, but this just seems weird when you get a comment like “it is tracking a herd of scrofas and their young, called scroflets.” Called scroflets by whom?
Anyone familiar with DK’s very rigid format might be a bit surprised by this book. Not only do the authors get their names on the cover (something DK discourages), but inside the book flows from page to page rather than being in two page chunks – and there’s a lot more solid text than you would expect in a DK book. That’s because this isn’t really one of theirs. The older US edition is from a different publisher, and the pages look identical. Although the normal DK format is probably more young reader friendly, this topic does well from having the extra flow – perhaps we could see more DK books breaking the mould in the future.
Paperback:  
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Feed (SF) - Nick Clark Windo ****

Ever since The War of the Worlds, the post-apocalyptic disaster novel has been a firm fixture in the Science Fiction universe. What's more, such books are often among the few SF titles that are shown any interest by the literati, probably because many future disaster novels feature very little science. With a few exceptions, though (I'm thinking, for instance, The Chrysalids) they can make for pretty miserable reading unless you enjoy a diet of page after page of literary agonising.

The Feed is a real mixture. Large chunks of it are exactly that - page after page of self-examining misery with an occasional bit of action thrown in. But, there are parts where the writing really comes alive and shows its quality. This happens when we get the references back to pre-disaster, when we discover the Feed, which takes The Circle's premise to a whole new level with a mega-connected society where all human interaction is through directly-wired connections… until the whole thing fails …

The Bastard Legion (SF) - Gavin Smith *****

Science fiction has a long tradition of 'military in space' themes - and usually these books are uninspiring at best and verging on fascist at worst. From a serious SF viewpoint, it seemed that Joe Haldeman's magnificent The Forever War made the likes of Starship Troopers a mocked thing of the past, but sadly Hollywood seems to have rebooted the concept and we now see a lot of military SF on the shelves.

The bad news is that The Bastard Legion could not be classified as anything else - but the good news is that, just as Buffy the Vampire Slayer subverted the vampire genre, The Bastard Legion has so many twists on a straightforward 'marines in space' title that it does a brilliant job of subversion too.

The basic scenario is instantly different. Miska is heading up a mercenary legion, except they're all hardened criminals on a stolen prison ship, taking part because she has stolen the ship and fitted them all with explosive collars. Oh, and helping her train her &…

On the Moor - Richard Carter ****

There's much to enjoy in Richard Carter's pean to the frugal yet visceral delights of being one with England's Pennine moorland. If this were all there were to the book it would have made a good nature read, but Carter cleverly weaves in science at every opportunity, whether it's inspired by direct observations of birds and animals and plants - I confess I was ignorant of the peregrine falcon's 200 mile per hour dive - or spinning off from a trig point onto the geometric methods of surveying through history all the way up to GPS.

Carter is something of an expert on Darwin, and inevitably the great man comes into the story many times - yet his appearance never seems forced. It's hard to spend your time in a natural environment like this and not have Darwin repeatedly brought to mind.

I confess to a distinct love of these moors. Having spent my first 11 years in and around Littleborough, just the other side of Blackstone Edge from Carter's moor, the moorland…