It’s my birthday this week (the 26th), so how timely that that most long-awaited of books – Tom Holtz and Luis Rey’s Dinosaurs should arrive this morning (Holtz 2007). This huge, lavishly illustrated work – it’s one of those volumes that will get called ‘the ultimate dinosaur book’ a lot – has been in the pipeline for, I dunno, months and months and months, and I’m very pleased to see the final finished version. After visiting Luis and seeing some of the artwork he was preparing for the volume (see his thoughts here), I previously blogged about it (at ver 1) here and here. The official release date, I understand, is October 23rd, but it’s obtainable via Amazon already (here). At the risk of doing some high-PR advertising for two of my friends, I feel the urge to blog about it…
The most interesting thing is that – while written by one of the world’s leading technical experts on dinosaurs, and containing a great deal of information that professional palaeontologists will enjoy seeing in a book – this is not a technical volume, but a popular one that’s written with kids and interested lay-adults in mind. Do not let that put you off if you’re already a level-5 dinosaur uber-geek: Tom Holtz himself is self-proclaimed ‘King of the Dino Geeks’ (it says so on the dustcover) so rest assured that he’s included a lot of new stuff that is entertaining and informative. In other words, it should have the broadest possible appeal.
The idea that such an immense (426 pp.), well-designed and comprehensive volume is aimed at the popular market is a big deal, and those of us interested in science education and the dissemination of scientific knowledge will be bigging this volume up for all it’s worth I feel. Tom’s text is easy and fun to read, and he takes every opportunity to use catchy titles and appropriate ‘common names’ for dinosaurs and their adaptations. It’s also clear that Tom was including stuff pretty much up to the last minute, as he managed to get the basal therizinosauroid Falcarius, the carcharodontosaurid Mapusaurus, and others, in there. The volume ends with a dinosaur genus list: this is a table that extends for nearly 50 pages, and includes data on body size, etymology and affinities. Yikes. Having produced such things for kid’s books I know what a headache they are – they also get outdated very quickly, so an online up-to-date version is provided too [in the adjacent photo, I'm standing in the Luis Rey wing of Tet Zoo towers. Yes, that's a Rey original hanging on the wall].
Never before has such a vast assortment of Luis Rey artwork appeared in one volume, as far as I know. There are hundreds of new pieces by Luis here: bold, colourful, innovative and often depicting dinosaurs that you might not have seen illustrated before, including Zalmoxes, Lurdusaurus, Olorotitan, Brachytrachelopan, Buitreraptor, Guanlong, Zupaysaurus, a very spiky-looking Agustinia, and others. In the main, taxonomically-arranged section of the book, each section opens with a whole-page montage depicting several members of the group. These pictures are neat: the adjacent pic shows the one fronting the oviraptorosaur-therizinosauroid section of the book.
Some of the art is really innovative and fun. In an Early Cretaceous North American wood, an angry Astrodon picks up a Utahraptor by its tail; the latter is not amused. Fans of Luis’ art might have seen an older piece that depicts the same event, but with an altogether different look (Rey 2001, p. 26). I am personally quite fond of the white furry Leallynasaura and menacing snowbeast-like theropod that is pursuing it.
Scattered throughout the book are one-page articles by other palaeontologists, with contributions on specific clades, on biogeography and palaeobiology. I managed to get something in there… it’s a bit out of date now (pachycephalosaurs in Europe? Oh dear), but what the hey. Anyway, while this article obviously isn’t a proper review of the volume, I wanted to say at least something in celebration of its appearance, and I hope at least some of you can share my enthusiasm. Well done Tom and Luis (when’s the party by the way?) – I’m amazed and awed at such a stunningly comprehensive and attractive volume. We live in a golden age of books on dinosaurs and their contemporaries: I sometimes lament the speed at which new volumes appear (argh, the cost), but my god it’s worth the pain.
So there we have it. What with all the post-conference stuff, I still have to get Tet Zoo back to normal. Am aiming to post SVPCA stuff next, but within a short while I want to get back to normality: articles on beluwhals, weird salamanders, obscure theropods, Mesozoic marine reptiles, and all that. For those worrying about that strange skin I posted a while back (particularly Noni Mausa and arachnophile Heather), don’t worry… I’ll get to it eventually. Great, late for work again.
Refs – -
Holtz, T. R. 2007. Dinosaurs. Random House, New York.
Rey, L. V. 2001. Extreme Dinosaurs. Chronicle Books, San Francisco.