This book blew me away when I first read it. It's approach to natural history and evolution is unapologetic and embraces the beauty of natural history. It does so through a kind of anthropomorphism or anthropocentrism (in the device of a theater) that is easy to criticize, but which in this case seems like an interesting technique to bring interest to the lifeless or non-human eras of the world's development. I have owned several copies in the past 15 years, and have had my students buy it as one of the key books for discussing design and visual elements. Burton controls composition and visual elements such as line and color masterfully. She knows exactly how to guide our eyes along a line to see her illustrated narrative emerge as if the picture were live on stage.
Kim Bontempo reminded me how compelling the somewhat scary and colder images from the early pages of this book are. So I went ahead and shelved it with my dark books--compelling to look at and read, while frightening and unsettling.