Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pg. 99: Henry Nicholls' "Lonesome George"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Henry Nicholls' Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon.

About the book, from the publisher:
Lonesome George is a 5ft long, 200lb tortoise aged between 60 and 200. In 1971 he was discovered on the remote Galapagos island of Pinta, from which tortoises had supposedly been exterminated by greedy whalers and seal hunters. He has been at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island ever since, on the off-chance that scientific ingenuity will conjure up a way of reproducing him and resurrecting his species. Meanwhile a million tourists and dozens of baffled scientists have looked on as the celebrity reptile shows not a jot of interest in the female company provided. Today, Lonesome George has come to embody the mystery, complexity and fragility of the unique Galapagos archipelago. His story echoes the challenges of conservation worldwide; it is a story of Darwin, sexual dysfunction, adventure on the high seas, cloning, DNA fingerprinting and eco-tourism.
Among the praise for Lonesome George:
"Like the best human-focused biographers, Nicholls uses his unusual subject as a springboard into more universal territory. He aptly portrays Lonesome George as a sort of reptilian Forrest Gump, an unwitting bystander continually thrust to the forefront as society's defining crises play themselves out around him."

"This marvellous look at the conservation of nature, as embodied in one enormous reptile, is highly recommended."
--Nancy Bent, Booklist

"Is he gay, impotent or just bored? Read this fascinating book for the full story. It skilfully blends historical derring-do with cutting-edge conservation biology."

"Told with real affection and humour ... a fitting tribute to one of the voiceless victims of human progress."

"A warmly enjoyable book...a pleasure to read."

"Nicholls' lively tale takes the reader on a journey through the Galapagos - and how much there is to lose."
--BBC Focus Magazine

"This is a wonderful tale of an almost mythical beast. Rich in historical detail George's story is one of pathos, despair and hope with some quirky reproductive biology thrown in for good measure. Nicholls has done us all a service, reminding us of the fragility of life in general and of one very special chelonian in particular."
--Tim Birkhead, author of Promiscuity and The Red Canary

"Not simply the story of a tortoise but the tale of that icon of evolution, the Galápagos archipelago, and of the heroics and (sometimes) seeming futility of the conservation movement. The science is compelling, the tone is light - highly recommended."
--Olivia Judson, Seed Magazine

"It is a cracking tale - and crackingly well told. It is also salutary. Giant tortoises are indeed extraordinary - but not as strange as human beings."
--Colin Tudge, author of The Secret Life of Trees

"This astonishing story of survival tugs at the heartstrings. If Darwin were alive today he would be fascinated by Henry Nicholls' splendid account of this solitary survivor from Pinta Island. A must for anyone who cares about extinction or has a soft spot for the remarkable history of a very singular animal."
--Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: A Biography

Read a sample chapter from Lonesome George.

Henry Nicholls is a freelance science journalist specializing in evolutionary biology, the environment, conservation and history of science. Since 2002, he has been the Editor of Endeavour, a quarterly History of Science magazine. After a year living in the Kalahari Desert working on the evolution of sociality in meerkats, Nicholls took up a PhD at the University of Sheffield in the UK to study sexual selection in birds. Lonesome George, his first book, was longlisted for the 2006 Guardian First Book Award and shortlisted for the Royal Society's prestigious General Book Prize.

The Page 99 Test: Lonesome George.

--Marshal Zeringue