For Discovery Channel enthusiasts, this scientific foray into life on planet earth examines how the world’s creatures--both weird and wonderful--are inextricably linked.
Life on planet earth is not weirder than we imagine. It’s weirder than we are capable of imagining. And we’re all in it together: humans, blue whales, rats, birds of paradise, ridiculous numbers of beetles, molluscs the size of a bus, the sexual gladiators of slugs, bdelloid rotifers who haven’t had sex for millions of years and creatures called water bears: you can boil them, freeze them and fire them off into space without killing them.
We’re all part of the animal kingdom, appearing in what Darwin called “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful." In this breathtakingly audacious book, Simon Barnes has brought us all together, seeking not what separates us but what unites us. He takes us white-water rafting through the entire animal kingdom in a book that brings in deep layers of arcane knowledge, the works of Darwin and James Joyce, Barnes’s own don’t-try-this-at-home adventures in the wild, David Attenborough and Sherlock Holmes. Ten Million Aliens opens your eyes to the real marvels of the planet we live on.
Barnes (How to Be a Birdwatcher), an English sports writer, nature writer, and novelist, embarks on a vast survey of the animal kingdom. The 460 pages of descriptions of various phyla are a joy to read: funny, thoughtful, informative, and wise. Barnes divides the world's creatures into vertebrates and invertebrates, alternating his 130 short chapters between the two. A superb writer, he packs an amazing amount of material into each brief chapter, and makes stories about tiny velvet worms, giant squid, peripatetic albatrosses, and sessile barnacles equally captivating. His scientific facts are well chosen and creatively mixed with firsthand descriptions of his travels across Africa, Great Britain, and beyond. Barnes is as comfortable discussing crickets as cricket and weaves literature with natural history. Without moralizing, Barnes also situates Homo sapiens as just one species within the animal kingdom, forcing readers to think about the damage we are doing to so many of our fellow species. The book is all but impossible to put down, and for good measure, Barnes explains the process of evolution as well as any popular science writer.