In 1977, when marine geologists discovered an abundance of never-before-seen life-forms thriving near superhot hydrothermal vents on the Pacific Ocean floor, the limits of life suddenly expanded beyond what biologists previously thought possible. Since then, scientists have discovered algae living in Antarctic brine and fungi feasting on inorganic chemicals in rock. Dubbed extremophiles for their proficiency in adapting to extreme conditions, these organisms all nonetheless incorporate DNA and have a common terrestrial ancestor. But what if there are forms of life on other planets composed of utterly different molecules? What would such creatures, large or small, look like? In 2002 a National Research Council committee pondered these exact questions, and their answers inspired this mind-bending exploration of weird life, by veteran technical writer Toomey. After cataloging the varieties of improbable life here on earth, Toomey takes a tour of the committee’s report and speculative fiction, citing such examples as silicon-based ETs to sentient oceans. Biologists and sf fans alike will find much here to challenge their preconceived notions of life in the universe. --Carl Hays
[P]hysicists and astronomers have speculated that alien life might arise near black holes and neutron stars, or even as intelligent clouds of interstellar dust. In "Weird Life," David Toomey conveys these far-out theories with precision and humor -- including the theory that a "shadow biosphere" of weird organisms might thrive right here on Earth.
-- The New York Times
We visit ... the possibility of microbial life in Venusian clouds; doppelgangers in the multiverse; and much, much more. Weird indeed, and not a little wonderful.
The author begins by describing "extremophiles," which thrive in wildly harsh conditions: chemical hot springs, inside sea ice, miles beneath the earth or at the ocean's bottom. Having dealt with creatures that, however weird, exist, he proceeds to even stranger life that may exist on Earth, the planets, elsewhere throughout the universe, and in the minds of writers and philosophers ... An ingenious overview of anything that might be alive. The author remains true to science while coming to delightfully bizarre conclusions.
-- Kirkus Reviews, STARRED
As English professor Toomey tracks the work of scientists who hunt for such extreme examples, he explores the very definition of life. He also envisions the truly weird life-forms that might exist elsewhere in the universe--such as bacteria that ride on icy comets or even "living" networks of charged dust grains that circle black holes and communicate with one another electromagnetically.
-- Scientific American, recommended
Toomey's latest covers the strange, stranger, and strangest of life forms "at the frontiers of biology," such as organisms that can survive extreme temperatures, on stars, or inside our own bodies. Drawing from such noted scientists and popular writers such as Carl Sagan and Dr. Seuss, Toomey manages to make this panoply of life forms at once strange and familiar, and in doing so will entrance his readers.
-- Library Journal, STARRED
David Toomey's book is a fluent, bold and informative tour d'horizon of the latest thinking on these and other questions. It explores the frontiers of possibility, where 'weird' means anything that has an origin independent of the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) of all the earthlings we think we know. No such form has been discovered yet, but the literature of scientifically informed speculation is something rich and strange in its own right, and Toomey does it full justice. -- The Literary Review
An ingenious overview of anything that might be alive. The author remains true to science while coming to delightfully bizarre conclusions. (Kirkus Reviews)
Weird life, Toomey teaches us in his mind-bending book, is not just weirder than anything we can imagine, it is the weirdest thing we have ever imagined. (Justin Nobel, author of Orion)