The book is organised in 16 chapters. Chapter 1 is a short introduction about the types of fossil and the different types of preservation. Chapter 2 briefly illustrates the principles of the classification and of the evolution. From Chapter 3 to Chapter 10 the readers will discover the most important fossil invertebrates groups, beginning with the most simple one, that is the sponges, followed by the corals, the bryozoans, the brachiopods, the echinoderms, the trilobites, the molluscs and the graptolites, which are considered the most closely related to vertebrates, that are presented in the following Chapter 11. Chapter 12 covers the Land plants, Chapter 13 the microfossils (protists, microinvertebrates, microvertebrates, plants) and Chapter 14 the trace fossils. The two final chapters, 15 and 16 present the major biological events recorded respectively during the Precambrian and the Phanerozoic and sketch the relationship between the evolution of the planet and of all the organisms.
Each chapter is organised as follows. Firstly, a box covers the major points illustrated in the chapter. So the reader can immediately see which characteristics must be considered as the most relevant for the fossil group. The box is usually followed by (1) a short introduction, (2) a description of the morphological characters of the group, (3) one or two paragraphs about the ecology/palaeoecology and the evolutionary trends. The chapter finishes with one-two pages of a brief description of some particular genera. Each example is illustrated by a drawing, accompanied by some lines of text. But sometimes this order is not followed in every chapter.
The book is complete and illustrates all the major fossil groups that can be used during lectures and paleontology laboratories. It is a very concise book, and this could be considered both a good and bad point.
A good point because potential reader can immediately appreciate the main characteristics and importance of each group. The numerous illustrations can be considered more useful than a longer text. Students may use such a book as a good reference for paleontology laboratory.
The addition of a short glossary at the end of each chapter is a good idea and may be really helpful.
But, the text and the descriptions may be considered too short by more specialised readers. Some parts are not sufficiently developed, for example the use of isotopes. In fact, the isotopes analyses are cited in various chapters, but a short paragraph explaining what exactly isotopes are and why they are used should be added to clarify some conclusions.
On the other hand, if the Invertebrates are well developed (8 chapters), the Vertebrates are described only in Chapter 11, which, moreover, is not so well structured as the previous ones. This contributes to a feeling of disequilibrium for the entire book. But the authors first explain this by the fact that Invertebrates are considered more useful for paleoecology and are more largely presented in paleontology lab.
New and important terms are not emphasised (underlined, boldfaced) and this can make difficult for students to understand what is important. Sometimes the absence of a short and clear classification can create confusion. Last, if the illustrations are usually good and clear, some of the them should be improved.
Even if there are this few points that can be criticised, the book may be considered as a good reference for students and not specialised readers. But also instructors can find some good examples to prepare their courses. The fact that the book is concise and simple, with numerous illustrations, makes it of immediate use. It may be used as a good supplement to lectures and historical geology/general paleontology books. The price is reasonable: 19.99 £ (about 25 €).