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A very dry, repetitive book best left on your local library's bookshelf
on September 14, 2014
No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species (2004) suffers the same problems that has plagued other books written by Ellis: an excessive use of quoting and - at least for cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) - dumb mistakes. The first several chapters deal with extinctions and why they may have occurred. Here Ellis goes in circles, telling you the same theories again and again, often quoting article abstracts (which make me suspect he didn't even bother read much of the articles themselves). In later chapters he tries to cover the plight of as many species as possible, but in the process says almost nothing about certain species or how they really went extinct. When dealing with cetaceans, he apparently forgot what he had even said in earlier works (e.g., he once again forgot that the Dutch whaling settlement of Smeerenburg was settled well before the first overwintering in 1633-34) and doesn't appear to read his sources closely enough (e.g. Ellis believes Omura's whale, only described in 2003, must be very rare because the majority of the paratypes were caught in the East China Sea - where a lot of modern whaling occurred - when in fact they had been taken near the Solomon Islands, where very little modern whaling actually took place). Ellis also has a problem with dates, stating that British bowhead whaling in the Davis Strait region ended around 1860, when it didn't end until several decades later - you would think someone who wrote an entire chapter on this subject in an earlier book (Men & Whales, 1991) would recall this? If he made such silly mistakes on a subject he's published extensively on, imagine all the mistakes he's made throughout the book? That's a little scary to think about. What could've been a very interesting read turned into a struggle to finish. Had I not been reading other books at the time I probably wouldn't have finished it at all. I wouldn't really recommend this book to anyone - unless you want to write an essay on all the mistakes that Ellis probably made, that is.