7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The World of Dinosaurs Comes to Life,
This review is from: Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life (Hardcover)
Like so many other young boys, I loved dinosaurs. My parents would get me books about their world and I would just stare, longingly, at the pictures. I dreamed that there was some obscure mountain valley, a Shangri-La, deep in the Himalayas or an island, far out in the Pacific, where the lived on. But alas, they are gone, like their far older trilobite cousins.
Scott Sampson's Dinosaur Odyssey brings this world back to life. This is a book for the very serious amateur dinosaur lover. I really enjoyed the author's love of complexity, for many of the most core issues about how dinosaurs lived are still mysteries. His discussions on the areas of dinosaur metabolism and evolution were particularly fascinating. Sampson does not take the easy road. Rather, he treats his readers with respect. The interplay of evolution and ecology is not always a simple one and Sampson takes the reader into these occasionally murky areas of research and conjecture in ways that are endlessly intriguing. These discussions became rather complex and I really enjoyed the challenge of fully understanding them. His writing style is both technical and passionate. His love for paleontology shines on every page. I found myself even a little jealous of the author, for so many years ago I considered becoming one myself as a geology minor as an undergraduate. After reading Dinosaur Odyssey, I suspect I made the wrong choice.
With all we seem to know about the world of dinosaurs, I now realize that so many of the key questions continue to be mysteries. What was it like to wander along a Cretaceous era river? How did the air smell (Sampson does make some inferences about this)? Did these giant beasts make lots of sounds? Was there constant terror in the air wondering just how close a Tyrannosaurus might be? We may never know the answers to these questions, but Dinosaur Odyssey does an amazing job of recreating this world in the language of science as well as the senses. My one criticism is that there were too few illustrations showing the environmental context of these ancient plants and animals. I found myself typing in the names of many of these plants and animals into my search window and then clicking on "images" to get a better visual idea of what Sampson was describing.
He does remind us, that the world of the ancient dinosaurs lives with us still. I can hear them just outside my window as I type this review and they feed in my back yard. You might call them birds, but in truth they are the living legacy of the mighty therapods that once aroused terror wherever they went. Now these same therapods glide through the air arousing delight and connecting us back to distant times in their song.