Eon, Illustrated Adventures in Time
By Aviva Reed
Review by Rachel Edwards
Eon is an exquisite word, three beautiful letters combined to precisely describe time which is otherwise beyond our abilities to comprehend, or ‘a measure of geological time: an indefinitely long period; forever”.
And this is a beautiful book. Subtitled ‘the story of fossils,’ it is a large hardcover that roams through the formation of the planet and subsequent arrival of many forms of life, right down to us humans, right at the very end of eons and eons of life and changes to this planet.
The illustrations in this exceptional book are one of the aspects that really make it book sing. They are hand drawn and painted by the author, with an element of collage about them as well. Illustrated in earthy, muted colours the rich drawings convey an element of what was changing as the earth aged and moved throughout the different eras.
A mere double spread of pages is dedicated to each major period in the earth’s history; Triassic 251– 200 million years ago, Ordovician/Silurian 488 – 418 million years ago, Archaen, 5 billion years ago, Neogene, 23 million years – 5000 years ago, you get the picture. For each of these periods the author has written a few words, in a delicately rhyming verse and one that has mostly dodged the bullet of cloying. For example, the page of Paleogene, 65 – 23 million years ago begins “On cooling Earth, creatures with wombs who could hide survived, and plants with blooms and grasses thrived”. The rhyme makes it perfect to read to children, and even as an adult reading the rhyme provides the warming repetitive nature of a drum beat – a strange comfort. It is not oversimplified.
The book, while perfect for children by dint of its accessible language is such a beauty that it will also appeal to adult readers. Also, considering that it tackles such a massive subject, one that often seems arcane and simply too big to get a grasp of, it provides a simplified, broken down yet in no way condescending account of how the planet was formed. It also shows humans for the flash-in-the-pan beings we are, within the entire geological time frame of the planet.
At the end of the book the author provides the information in a different manner; a straightforward timeline that begins five billion years ago, the Age of Molecules and finishes two million years ago during the Age of Diverse Life. To see the planet quantified in this manner, showing as it does life on land ‘arriving’ more recently than 500 years ago, and humans even more recently is another effective way to convey this scientific information without appearing didactic. There is also a glossary for those inclined to deepen their knowledge
This is a book that bridges an art/science divide with ease and beauty. It conveys an epic amount of information, covering millions of years, as well as being an object that is beautiful to behold – and to hold.