The Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey - review by Steve King

Steve King

From Mountain Top to Ocean Floor

The Earth: An Intimate History


HarperCollins 501pp £25 order from our bookshop

A WINNING COMBINATION of bouncy prose and authoritative science has made Richard Fortey's previous natural history books bestsellers. (That irresistibly perky exclamation mark in the title of %lobite! can't have hurt either.) His latest offering deserves the same success. The purpose of this new book, Fortey says, is to show how the Earth's surface exists 'at the behest of the underworld'. Geology determines not only the lie of the land but also the way the land accommodates life. 'It could be said that entire cultures are under the influence of the geological underlay,' he ventures. 'Our very character could be described as geological.'

Nearly 4.6 billion years' worth of rocky history would seem more than enough for any writer (or reader) to be getting on with. Mercifully, Fortey breaks his narrative down into more or less manageable chunks and lets a few carefully chosen locations in different parts of the world - the

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