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The Ends of the World

Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions
Narrated by: Adam Verner
Length: 9 hrs and 57 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (971 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

As new groundbreaking research suggests that climate change played a major role in the most extreme catastrophes in the planet's history, award-winning science journalist Peter Brannen takes us on a wild ride through the planet's five mass extinctions and, in the process, offers us a glimpse of our increasingly dangerous future.

Our world has ended five times: It has been broiled, frozen, poison gassed, smothered, and pelted by asteroids. In The Ends of the World, Peter Brannen dives into deep time, exploring Earth's past dead ends, and in the process offers us a glimpse of our possible future.

Many scientists now believe that the climate shifts of the 21st century have analogs in these five extinctions. Using the visible clues these devastations have left behind in the fossil record, The Ends of the World takes us inside "scenes of the crime", from South Africa to the New York Palisades, to tell the story of each extinction. Brannen examines the fossil record - which is rife with creatures like dragonflies the size of sea gulls and guillotine-mouthed fish - and introduces us to the researchers on the front lines who, using the forensic tools of modern science, are piecing together what really happened at the crime scenes of the Earth's biggest whodunits.

Part road trip, part history, and part cautionary tale, The Ends of the World takes us on a tour of the ways that our planet has clawed itself back from the grave and casts our future in a completely new light.

©2017 Peter Brannen (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • aaron
  • los angeles, CA, United States
  • 06-15-17

A Kid's Science Book FOR ADULTS!!

This is about as good as it gets, in terms of appealing to your inner five-year-old child that LOVED dinosaurs, while still making the logical, rational adult side of you happy.

Brannen tackles the 5 major extinctions that the Earth has experienced with the flare of a Vonnegut, while maintaining the scientific details of a Dawkins. This is a monumentally hard task, but he does it deftly. His research, descriptions, and attention to detail of the plants and animals interspersed between these cataclysms was remarkable.

After listening to more than a few dry, boring, repetitive science books, this was one I embraced like the warm sun after a cold winter's night.

The narrator was spot on as well.

123 of 129 people found this review helpful

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I recommend this book frequently

This book helps to give context to our time and place on this planet. The narrator is excellent. The book offers an eloquent synopsis of historical geology from the perspective of mass extinction events, and ties everything together beautifully in the last chapters. It was written so that both seasoned geologists and everyday laymen can understand and enjoy it. 10/10, would recommend.

52 of 56 people found this review helpful

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Eye opening account of past catastrophes

I loved this book. At times it is very grim, but the ability of life on Earth to regenerate itself after total or partial annihilation is very uplifting. You realize that the timescales of geology and evolution are on the order of tens to hundreds of thousands of human generations. When an extinction event occurs (and it can be very sudden such as the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous period) there is no hope for any exposed species.

The author sets the current 6th extinction into context, making it clear that it is small compared to the earlier extinctions in terms of biodiversity lost. Also, the level of carbon dioxide in past eras fluctuated widely along with Earth's temperature. As did sea levels and arctic ice conditions.

I had two takeaways from this book. First, humanity needs to either develop the ability to control CO2 levels in the atmosphere, or develop a resiliency towards future climate changes.

Second, for humanity to truly survive mass extinction events, we must develop the ability to colonize other planets. However, that is firmly in the realm of science fiction and will be for a long time to come, if it will ever happen.

Hopefully we will be able to come together and develop technologies that allow us to manage our climate, in time to keep the CO2 level in the atmosphere not much higher than today.

43 of 48 people found this review helpful

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Amazing, Everything, Amazing

Any additional comments?

I am not a geologist or paleontologist, but the information from this book seems accurate. The author uses extremely credible sources - experts in respective fields. Also, the author appears very intelligent, but does not come across as pompous or too verbose.

This is a very well written scientific explanation of past and potential future extinctions. The author has a way with words, he blended science and love story/drama/action novel together in a way that was unforgettable. My writing seems like crap in comparison, well that's because it is, lol!

The choice of the reader/performer was spot on. Amazing voice and so easy on the ears.

It was sad when this one was over, but now I can be thankful I live in the age in which we live. This book helps reaffirm the wonders of life and the struggles the Earth has seen.

One of the better books I have ever downloaded. Bravo!

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Climate change

While there is a tremendous amount of very interesting material, a significant portion is spent on climate change doomsday forecasting. This was unexpected, but perhaps I just didn't read the description and/or reviews closely enough. Anyway, be aware that you will have to wade through quite a bit of "man, are we stupid" monologs. Even with that being said, I listened to the whole thing, so that has to count for something significant!

46 of 57 people found this review helpful

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who knew the end of the world would be interesting

one of the most important of books of the natural world around me that I have ever listened to in quite a while. this should be considered a bucket list read for anyone who is an Enthusiast and geology and the natural world I've learned more and this one book then I think I have I'm quite a while about my world.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Re: An excellent summary

This is an excellent summary of the various historic and modern theories related to the major extinctions of life on this planet in easy to understand and, sometimes, humorous language. For any reader seeking info upon these topics I recommed this volume and it's narrator.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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good but bit melodramatic

Learned a lot, strength was on details around extinction events. Author did go bit overboard on the global warming message. Get it but yeah what to do ... which is a bit beyond the scope of the book

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Only one complaint

My only real problem with this fantastic book was the delivery, what is a very interesting book became a bit too slow at times.

16 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • S.
  • Annapolis, MD, United States
  • 03-25-19

Excellent listen.

It is quite rare that I respond to a narrator so well as I did to Adam Verner. Often times I find myself wishing a narrator would change tempo, pitch, tone and whatnot. This never happened with Verner, and for the first time I started looking for books based on whether he narrated them. Apart from this, the material in the book is written very well, and it appeals to those of us who have very little (or no) knowledge of the events portrayed in the book. It is fast paced and the listener is kept interested. I listened to the last two hours during the three hour ride to Virginia, and did not want the book to end before my arrival, as it really kept me entertained and interested. All of these things combined and The Ends of the World gets five stars across the board from me.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful