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Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up

Review

Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up

Created by Shawn Sheehy and illustrated by Jordi Solano.

BEYOND THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up, written by Shawn Sheehy and illustrated by Jordi Solano, is unlike any pop-up or science fiction book I have ever seen. I believe that it is safe to say that there is no other pop-up book like this, just as there is no other science fiction like this, so you can imagine how out of this world this book is when it combines the two! I would be remiss if I didn’t state up front that this is not a book intended for younger audiences, primarily for the level of the scientific material included and for its presentation of a post-apocalyptic world that is eerily grounded in our current world.

"The grounding in science and the artistic excellence of the book...make it breathtaking. But it is the possible future presented...that makes it haunting and unforgettable."

There are two primary elements of BEYOND THE SIXTH EXTINCTION and they both warrant high praise. The first element is the solid grounding in science and possibility. The second is the book itself as a work of art. The premise of BEYOND THE SIXTH EXTINCTION is that it is the year 4847 and the book presents “A Field Guide to Creatures of the Cagoan District.” The Cagoan district, which one gets the sense is located near where Lake Michigan used to be, is a unique ecosystem that is home to rapidly evolving species. The ecosystem fosters rapid evolution because of its steady tropic temperatures and its high levels of background radiation. The species that have thrived in this district have learned to “convert technological waste into biological nutrients.” For example, the gut bacteria of the Peteybug has evolved to break down polycarbonates, such as those found in compact discs.

Each species is featured on two pages. The first page delights readers with an intricate pop-up of the creature. I believe that Sheehy was responsible for these feats of paper engineering. Hidden behind a flap on each pop-up page are the scientific details of each species, including: its name, its Latin name, size, diet, habitat, life span, bioremediation, interspecies relationships, mutagenesis and adaptive behavior. The second page presents further information about the species that is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations and, in some cases, scientifically rooted diagrams and graphs.

It is these two elements, the grounding in science and the artistic excellence of the book, which make it breathtaking. But it is the possible future presented in BEYOND THE SIXTH EXTINCTION that makes it haunting and unforgettable. Although the species that are documented in BEYOND THE SIXTH EXTINCTION are from Sheehy’s imagination, it is an imagination that is solidly grounded in science and possibility. I found myself nodding and acknowledging the possibilities and the logic of the evolutions imagined by Sheehy. For example, the Brownfield Pigeon is flightless because its habitat is devoid of any places to fly to; its vestigial wings have evolved to become brood pouches as the lack of trees in its habitat rob it of materials from which to build nests and places to put the nest if one could be built.

BEYOND THE SIXTH EXTINCTION, like other extraordinary works of science fiction, holds up a scrying bowl to show us what could be if we do not alter our current reality. Because we can see so much of our present in this possible future it is both haunting and scary.

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on October 22, 2018

Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up
Created by Shawn Sheehy and illustrated by Jordi Solano.