Summary and book reviews of Ten Million Aliens by Simon Barnes

Ten Million Aliens

A Journey Through the Entire Animal Kingdom

by Simon Barnes

Ten Million Aliens by Simon Barnes X
Ten Million Aliens by Simon Barnes
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2015, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

This fascinating scientific foray into the animal kingdom examines how the world's creatures - weird, wonderful, and everything in between - are inextricably linked.

Life on planet earth is not weirder than we imagine. It's weirder than we are capable of imagining. And we're all in it together: humans, blue whales, rats, birds of paradise, beetles, mollusks the size of buses, gladiator slugs, bdelloid rotifers that haven't had sex for millions of years, and water bears - creatures that can be boiled, frozen, and fired off into space without dying.

We're all part of the animal kingdom, appearing in what Darwin called "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful." In this audacious book, Simon Barnes brings together all of the world's creatures, seeking not what sets them all apart but what unites all. He explores arcane knowledge from the works of Darwin to James Joyce and David Attenborough to Sherlock Holmes, in addition to telling his own wild, don't-try-this-at-home adventures in humorous and compulsively readable prose.

Fascinating, entertaining, and perfect for Discovery Channel enthusiasts, Ten Million Aliens will open your eyes to the real marvels of the planet we live on.

Endlessness

"Endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved". Final words of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. It is a thought that has had me enthralled all my life. We are not alone in the universe: the idea that launched a million works of science fiction. Fact is we are not alone on our own planet. Far from it. We could hardly be less alone. We are one of a crowd, part of a teeming throng. We are not alone even when we are alone: whether we are counting the great garden of bacteria in our guts – alien life forms that keep us alive – or the tiny arthropods called Demodex mites that live in the follicles of our eyelashes.

Because we are one of many. Life is not about the creation of a single perfect being. An ape is not a failed human: it is a perfectly valid and fully evolved creature in its own right. A monkey is not a failed ape, a lemur is not a failed monkey, a mouse is not a failed primate, a fish is not a failed mammal (and...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The book is informative and thought-provoking and sure to please those who are looking to expand their knowledge about the world around them.The chapters are relatively self-contained - that is, they don't build on one another and there's no storyline – so it's easy to pick it up and read any part at any time. Also, the book is very densely packed with information; I don't exaggerate when I say I learned something new and fascinating on nearly every page that I wanted to burn into my memory, and at least for me that was an impossible task for a single read-through. Generally "densely packed with facts" would equate to dull and dry, but the author's familiar tone and engaging style kept things moving along at a good clip and it never got tedious; there's simply a lot of information presented over a very small space.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (633 words).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Barnes' tour of life is entertaining and informative, though it doesn't hold a candle to the likes of Ackerman, Durrell and Attenborough.

Library Journal
Sports, nature, and travel writer Barnes (formerly Times of London and Bird Watching with Your Eyes Closed) aims to teach that humans are related to all animals and to "the planet that supports us." Unfortunately, one can't teach without respecting readers' diverse attitudes or providing useful information, and Barnes does little of either.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The book is all but impossible to put down, and for good measure, Barnes explains the process of evolution as well as any popular science writer.

The Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Barnes is a unique voice, always willing to challenge conventional wisdom and look for deeper meanings.

The Times (UK)
An excellent book from the irrepressible Simon Barnes.

The Independent (UK)
Barnes brings the animal kingdom to life.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Naked Mole Rat

In Ten Million Aliens, Simon Barnes describes many unusual creatures, one of which is the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber).

The naked mole rat, also known as the sand puppy or desert mole rat, is a rodent, although it's more closely related to porcupines, chinchillas and guinea pigs than to either moles or rats. These animals are small, averaging three to four inches long (without the tail) and weigh just over an ounce. They have just a few small hairs on their body and exceptionally poor eyesight, features that have provided the creature with its common name.

The naked mole rat Residing beneath the deserts of East Africa (primarily the southern portion of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia) each colony's territory can cover an area as large as six ...

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