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A Natural History of the Unnatural World - Joel Levy

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Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Author: Joel Levy / Hardcover / 224 Pages / Book is published 2000-01 by St Martins Pr

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      03.10.2009 10:55
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      If you're interested in mythical creatures, this may be for you.

      Cryptozoology is literally 'the study of hidden animals'; beasts that are dismissed as legend by mainstream scientists. Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Abominable Snowman are all famous 'cryptids'.

      Many cryptozoologists spend their lives hunting for evidence of these mythical animals, often with little success. Their supporters argue that 'monsters' such as the mountain gorilla and okapi were considered as cryptids before being 'discovered' by science.

      'The natural history of the unnatural world' claims to be a volume produced by the 'Cryptozoological Society of London'; opening up over 100 years of files and presenting evidence for many undiscovered animals.

      However, the book's claim is a hoax. There is no Cryptozoological Society of London, and the book is a work of fiction. Any reader hoping for a summary of current cryptozoological research into, for example, alien big cats living in Britain will be disappointed by this book.

      However, despite the book's fictional nature, it does have a useful purpose. This volume gathers together the myths and legends of all of the fabulous creatures imagined by humankind over the past several thousand years.

      It is a large format book with 224 pages. There are sections on animals that 'could' exist, such as Bigfoot and the Yeti (so there is some information for those interested in 'genuine' cryptozoology), but the bulk of the book is taken up with examination of legends of faeries, vampires, giants, and the like.

      Considered in this non-scientific way, the book is quite entertaining. Many readers have, however, been angered by the fact that the fictional nature of the book is not admitted within its covers and this is understandable.

      The book is dotted with 'field reports' made by members of the society. Sightings of, for example, Nessie, are recorded excitedly with details of weather and location being listed along with the measurements and characteristics of the animal. These are quite well written, but of course, are totally fictional.

      The book also contains some hilarious pseudo-science. Werewolves are explained by people being infected by a retrovirus. The Hyc-V virus is, apparently responsible for lycanthropy!

      The illustrations in the book are of a very high standard. Paintings and drawings of creatures are well done and also included are photographs of historical artefacts showing mythical creatures (such as ancient Egyptian and Greek pottery and carvings).

      Overall, the book works as a fictional account of fictional creatures. I enjoyed reading about Kraken and unicorns as well as the more 'possible' Bigfoot. As long as one knows that the book is not a serious study of the current state of cryptozoological research then it can be enjoyed. Buyers must be aware of the book's true nature, however, as otherwise disappointment may result.

      One final tip: the book has a cut out page for joining the 'Cryptozoological Society of London'. Subscription rates are pretty steep: annual membership is £650 with a £450 joining fee. Applicants must be nominated by an existing member (which will be difficult to find). I suggest you don't send off any money to this imaginary society!

      The book is available from Amazon from £14.50.

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