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Publisher's Summary

All the years of human civilization represent an infinitesimal fraction of the time since life first burgeoned on planet Earth. How likely is it, then, in those great depths of time, that humanity alone benefitted from the spark of intelligence that gave rise to culture?

This is the question posed by Hugo Award winner Cixin Liu, in his magisterial new short novel The Cretaceous Past. The answer he offers is unexpected, supposing an unlikely alliance between the largest creatures in the world of the deep past and some of the smallest. And it all begins with a toothache.

When a Tyrannosaurus rex suffers pain from meat trapped between its enormous teeth, a nearby colony of ants risks entering the great creature's maw to make their own repast from the remains of the dinosaur's most recent meal. From this humble beginning, over the course of millennia, a symbiotic civilization achieves amazing advances, facing dangers and exploiting opportunities at every turn.

In this absorbing tale, Cixin Liu manages to describe the history of successive epochs of a might-have-been world, doing for the past what Olaf Stapledon's classic Last and First Men did for the future.

©2020 FT Culture (Beijing) Co., Ltd. (P)2021 Tantor

What listeners say about The Cretaceous Past

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

Maddeningly Accessible

Mr. Liu tells a clever story about species interdependence, the responsibilities that are inherent to intelligence, and the profound error it is to undervalue other species' potential contribution to sustaining life on this planet.

Anthropomorphic insects and dinosaurs enact a story that has parallels which will not be lost on you, but with imaginative and compelling plot devices that you will not see coming. Imaginative, deviously clever, and accessible, The Cretaceous Past is a warning that arrogance is all it takes to bring nature's wroth upon the inhabitants of our planet.

1 person found this helpful

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Very original and interesting ideas

I enjoyed this wild imagination of a book that's very educated and tourches on the human condition

1 person found this helpful

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really fantastic!

I couldn't turn it off! Thought provoking, engrossing, and entertaining. Here's a lesson as old as time told in the most imaginative way.

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A cradle system without a devouring empire

This novella was formed around premature inklings of a few interesting ideas which eventually made it brilliantly into his short stories and into his Three Body novels. However, here the story just wasn't very compelling. The co-evolution of ant and dinosaur civilization just wasn't very fleshed out. It felt more like an early rough draft of what could have been something great.

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Extraordinary

Like many I came across this novel as a fan of Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem trilogy. Loved the story. Great narrator too.

Only thing that annoyed me is that supposedly all dinosaur species were intelligent and lived amongst each other. That’s as realistic as having an Earth civilization where there are kangaroos and horses working as engineers and administrators.

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An allegory for MAD doctrine...

Not too long, and easy to follow. The story initially reminded me of that book about Spiders (Children of Time) written by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

I think some readers were disappointed because they read 'The Three Body Problem' first. Since I have yet to read that book, I couldn't compare it but even so, I wasn't expecting a space opera. The oh reason I knocked down one star from my rating is because I don't feel compelled to reread the book any time soon. That's what it takes for me to give 5 stars. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't have finished it... or would be writing a longer review.

This might be a good story for kids who are smart but not snobby-smart. It could go well alongside a history curriculum. The latter half of this book really delved into the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. In a way, it aas a bit like 'Doctor Strangelove' with dinosaurs and ants.

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So boring

“The Three Body Problem”, or whatever it was called, was amazing and staggeringly imaginative. I don’t know how the same person could produce this sleep-inducing novel. I am driving cross country, so I could say that it is a dangerous book to listen to while driving!