With their bleak but ordinary landscape and their weird and wonderful wildlife, the Galapagos Islands have long been at the centre of scientific and ecological discovery.
It was here in 1835 that the young Charles Darwin took his first pioneering steps towards the theory of evolution. The islands came to be called "Darwin's Eden" and "The Galapagos Wonderland" but not everyone saw them that way. Six years after Darwin, Herman Melville was horrified by their inhuman desolation and strange creatures. For him the archipelago was "evilly enchanted ground".
Edward Larson's rich and absorbing book tells the full story of the isolated island universe, from Spanish conquistadors and British buccaneers, through to Darwin's discoveries and post-Darwinian debates to the fabulous expeditions of the Roaring Twenties, and on to the present-day struggle to conserve the archipelago's environment.