Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Prehistoric Life", a review

The dude from Tetrapod Zoology blog cowrote "Prehistoric Life". A huge book, thousands of images, 512 pages, 11.8 x 10.3 x 1.4 inches. Covers everything from formation of planet to the rise of man, 3.8 billion years. Expected it to be $40-60, it's $26 or less from Amazon! Bought it straight away.

It arrived the other day, and it is totally awesome. Typical for my reviews I offer no actual review and instead tell you who should get this book. There are three sorts.

One You have kids or in process of making one. I've had a life-long fascination with science and learning. It might just be the way I'm wired. But, as a wee lad I remember reading volumes of "How Things Work" and "City", among others. Since then I've been searching out knowledge and understanding. Buy "Prehistoric Life" (and other books like it.) Don't make your kids read it. Just leave it around. Your kids will find it and unless they suck it will blow their minds and they will crave more.

Two You're running a sci-fi/time travel RPG and want to throw down with some verisimilitude. Player's Far Trader land on a young, primitive planet? Turn to page 112 and peruse the section on Devonian plants. The regularly awesome CGI renderings and descriptive text provide all you need to set a unique stage. Need some ideas for the "Land that Time Forgot" other than, yawn, T-Rex? 500 freakin full-color pages to the rescue.

Three I've said this before (and "Prehistoric Life" supports my thesis) that nature has made weirder, more interesting "monsters" than we will ever think up. Pg 130, Stethacanthus. Pg 254, Dimorphodon (image in book makes it look cooler than wikipedia one). All those armoured spiked "dinosaurs". Pg 410 horse-ape people. A tweak or mix and match a few and you have a wicked new creature. Seriously, take any Paleozoic aquatic invertebrate, stick on 1d6 eyestalks (if needed) and float them toward your players.

Oh, yeah. I guess fourth type that should buy it. Those that are still that kid fascinated with science, learning, and big books. But instead of raiding your father's book shelf you can charge things on credit cards and have them arrive at your door a few days later. It's so rad.


  1. These kinds of books remind me of when I was 8 to 10, reading Time/Life books on the Universe, Space, Oceans and History or the National Geographic at my best friend's house. These kinds of books will make impressions that last a lifetime!

  2. I spied this at my local Barnes & Noble and yeah, I want it real bad.

    One of the many oddball campaign ideas I've had for years is a Land of Og game with the silly cranked down a few notches and the 'stone-age fantasy rpg' cranked up a couple. This book is perfect for that.


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