Customer Review

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seeing world's history with the eyes of a geologist..., July 25, 2010
This review is from: Vanished Ocean: How Tethys Reshaped the World (Hardcover)
I assume some scientists, once reached (or well past) the apex of their careers, feel the need to gush out part of their excitement, insight and lifetime drive to a big public of layreaders who'd otherwise remain totally oblivious of the wonders they could find out in their professional lives... And that's exactly how this book feels like, once you've read it! It's your good old geologist uncle sitting right next to you on that gently cracking rocking chair in some dimly lit porch, recounting ancient stories of this world and some past ones too. (With a notable British accent, I presume...)
After dealing with some of Dorrik Stow's papers on fine-grained turbidites and deep-water massive sandstones, was fun to discover he wrote this little, pleasant book in an attempt to popularize the philosophical bliss a geologist experiences in looking at the world in ways no one else truly can...

In a terse (if occasionally somewhat too dreamy and self-referential!) prose, the author slowly and systematically unwinds the whole history of an ancient oceanic realm whose legacy stands out today in the mountainous landscapes of four continents, in the fossil collections of many great musea, and in the rush and sounds of our everyday lives, fuelled as they are by oil and gas mainly originated in that ancient seaway....
The book's structure follows a chronological progression, from old times, when the Tethys Sea can first be identified in the rock record, to more recent ages, when it's slow demise left place to the world's geography as we know it. The simple but informative elegance of original paleogeographic maps opens every chapter, and helps to find one's way to all the ideas and corners of the world touched by the historical narrative. Here and there, the scientific discourse is accompanied by quick forays into the present, to describe places, life and resources in which the heritage of old geological history is still recognizable somehow... And it's a brave publisher today who allows an author to write an essay stretching well over 250 pages, in order to explore the many topics he needs for his magic, instead of the typical, meager 150ish pages for popular science books today!

Even so, I am left with the feeling that many subjects have been touched upon too quickly, too fast, from plate tectonics to biological evolution, from mass extinctions to oceanography. Some readers without a background in science might find it hard to tie up the many untold details into one coherent picture without further explanation. A few pages more here and there would have helped, and the final glossary, although a worthy effort, might not be enough for that job...
As such, I am convinced the book's main value would be as an accompanying read for 1st year Earth system or general geology courses, in order for students to catch a tantalizing glimpse of the vast scope of interests they will explore in the Earth Sciences. And also, in order for them to learn to look at what's around them with eyes that probe nature's beauty a little deeper than just the here and now... The eyes of a geologist..
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