I’ve now received and read through All Yesterdays and – as expected – find it fantastic. The general internet chorus is perfectly correct in highlighting this book, and I fully expect that it will become synonymous with a paradigm change in palaeontology, even though the change has already taken place. It hits the right buttons, fitting the message of scientifically plausible ballsiness with key images such as the skin-wrapped cat, and the goat-like Protoceratops group. It also manages fantastic imagery, my favorites including Ouranosaurus, Therizinosaurus and the camo Plesiosaur.
The book also stretches the metaphor a bit. Whereas John’s sleeping Tyrannosaurus is gorgeous, it’s not quite the revelation as far as resting theropods go, so that I personally feel bypassed by the text – which hangs a non-RAWR theropod a tad bit too far out on the limb of scandal. Hmmm, must be for those not following Deviant and other internet discussions, methinks – a very real possibility.
Alone, this would be a minor critique, but the artists rush boldly beyond the staking of any limits, and so – for me – enters the problematic. Citipati with a duck penis is exactly that – a theropod with a duck penis. Stegosaurus humping Haplocanthosaurus is also what it is. For me, both become negative examples as the proposed novelty does not arise from the mental exercise of imagining the animal itself, but rather of taking a sensationalist biology news-bite and combining it collage-like with a dinosaur. Sure, there are ample cases of convergent evolution. Sure, early theropods experienced similar selective pressures. Yet – as handled – these two cases feel as plausible to me as a Kentrosaurus with zebra stripes. In a book about the animals themselves, or the science of interpreting them, these would be out of place. In a book about the limits of illustration itself, however, I’ll accept them as clever, or at least as functional.
I have a further issue with Homo diluvii, which presents a breasted, humanoid thing as commentary about the infamous historical misinterpretation by Scheuchzer in 1726 – an interpretation of an interpretation I have difficulty orienting within the focus of plausibly reconstructing extinct creatures. It opens all sorts of new boxes and rubs off on neighboring drawings, so that I catch myself asking if the venomous baboon and vampiric hummingbird are unecessary digs at recent scientific interpretations.
Nonetheless, I fully recommend it and hope to get those hot author drawings in mine some time in the future. I’m happy this year brought such a debate-inspiring book, as well as others, like Matt’s Mesozoic Birds and Steve White’s World’s Greatest Paleoart. I’ll leave you with a great video of Darren presenting the book.