Customer Review

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars too much speculation interspersed with science, September 8, 2010
This review is from: Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans (Hardcover)
This my second Fagan book. The first one about the medieval warming period captivated me at first, as this one did, but then he goes all novelistic and speculative. He's a good writer altho he repeats his pet phrases endlessly ('thin on the ground' is one of them). When Fagan is writing about 100,000 years ago, or 30,000 years ago, it irritates me no end to read something like "And it was a bitterly cold wind. We huddled in our group inside the cave and chanted together. Tomorrow we would search for a lone juvenile or a trailing aged bison to trap. Then our hunger would be assuaged." and so on. I made up those sentences but that is exactly what he does. I do not want to read a novel. I do not want guesses and invention.

I can see why he has an audience. His books (based on the two I read) are lively, interesting, and I don't think anyone else out of the professorial-researcher loop writes popular science about paleoclimatology. I would rather read a slim volume of say, 100 pages, complete with maps, charts and references than 250 pages of padding and imagined scenarios. If he were giving a talk in my town, I would definitely go. I'd expect a lively and engaging hour. Robert Sapolsky has a reputation for hilarious lectures on serious subjects (The Primate's Memoir for ex) and he's a biologist-neuroscientist from Stanford with brilliant credentials. But he does not let his imagination run wild.

Probably no one will get all the way down the list to read this review but the book that really blew me away and which I will buy and reread when it comes out in paperback in a few months is The Humans who Went Extinct by Clive Finlayson.

Fagan has carved out a niche. He introduces this utterly fascinating world of paleoclimatology and the peoples who inhabited the planet 200,000 years ago up until 45,000 when the first anatomically modern humans spread out from Africa. I just can't abide the words in their mouths, thoughts in their heads style. Might as well have talk balloons over their heads and artists' fanciful renderings complete with nature sounds in the background.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 12, 2013 2:06:39 PM PDT
book addict says:
I totally agree. The text is verbose and repetitive. The info could have been delivered in 1/3 of the space. And what about the fact (as I understand it) that Neanderthals had larger brain capacity than modern humans? I'm really disappointed.
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