Speculating can be fun. But it’s nicer when you aren’t making stuff up out of thin air based on wishful thinking. Scientific underpinning is comforting. That’s why I liked Shadows of Existence: Discoveries and Speculations in Zoology by Matt Bille.
This book was published in 2006 so it’s slightly out of date but the majority of info is still worthwhile for the cryptozoological-minded and it’s far better written than the majority of crypto books out there. It’s sound. It’s solid.
Bille is knowledgeable. This effort took substantial research and it shows. He is also realistic, takes evidence into account and, yet, is hopeful that new, amazing discoveries are out there. This is my philosophy as well. Therefore, I approve of his tone throughout.
The book is a series of short essays organized into four sections: New creatures, In the Shadow of Extinction, Classic Mystery Animals, and Miscellanea. There is so much good information treated in an even-handed and fair manner.
For example, there is a great section of key dates in Nessie history. In another section, he questions a long-standing habit of using North American native legends to support current Bigfoot tales. That is a valid question and I am glad to see it mentioned. There are fans of cryptozoology and then there are people who really dig in to see what’s in there. Bille is both. To be an honest researcher, you must accept whatever is revealed. So, he does let his opinions show on occasion but they are informed ones. This is considerably better than what you will find in most pop cryptozoology which is overrun with rampant speculation and really awful evidence. This is a zoological-based book, not a monster book.
A few irritations exist, though. A color plate section is in the front. While the illustrations are mostly lovely, the editor chose some that are not appropriate or are not particularly in the spirit of the book. Some illustrations are out of place or not connected to the text (pages 193, 209, 212). I’m not a fan of the text layout. It’s a bit difficult to read because of lack of space between the lines. The Classic Mystery Animals section is good but does not fit into the general scheme of the book. But I’m not complaining about it, just mentioning. As I mentioned, some info is out of date. St. Columba is mentioned as the first documented “Nessie sighting” when it’s now more widely believed by scholars that this is not a valid account but more like a superhero tale of a revered figure.
A rather humorous example of being out of date is that Bille writes that Bigfoot may be on the slide in popularity. Curiously, he states “At this writing…” it seems to have declined. Was he psychic? Oh how it has ramped up to epic and ridiculous proportions these days! It’s nice to know there are writers who haven’t sold out and still treat cryptozoology as a valid sidebar of genuine zoology. Add it to your reference library.