Cryptozoology: Science & Speculation by Chad Arment is a worthy attempt at defining the often slippery science of cryptozoology. The book is divided into roughly two halves, beginning with an in-depth explanation of what cryptozoology is and is not, and follows with real-world examples of its practice.
The first half of the book attempts to define, in no uncertain terms, the science that is cryptozoology. The author goes into rigorous detail here, first priming the reader with foundational chapters which address the topic from scientific, logical, and ethnozoological perspectives. This is also the most potentially difficult portion of the reading, if for no other reason than it’s a characteristically dry treatment of scientific principles. If you can make it through the explanation of various forms of logical fallacy, and how scientific fact differs from theory and belief, the rest of the reading will be a breeze. That’s not to say that the introductory material was superfluous or excessive. In fact, I agree entirely with the author’s intent to provide a solid scientific foundation for his work. Ultimately, however, if you recall your school science course fundamentals well enough, you may find these few chapters a bit tedious.
The good new is, things soon pick up speed. The remainder of Part I (“Science”) is spent addressing cryptozoology directly. What is it? What isn’t it? How does a real cryptozoologist practice in the field? Why is it a relevant field of science? What are some common arguments against the existence of cryptozoology, and how can they be countered? These few chapters are the real meat-and-potatoes of book. Arment goes farther than any author I’ve yet read to position cryptozoology as a relevant and worthwhile field of research. If you previously used the term “cryptozoology” loosely, or assumed it to be in any way a sort of catchall for various pseudosciences, this work has a good chance of reshaping your view. The author makes a sound enough case that you could easily see new university courses cropping up for study in this area.
The latter half of the book takes an entirely different track. We now understand what cryptozoology is on paper, so the author takes us onward into the field. He presents real life cases to illustrate and support the material we’ve just been presented, and he manages to do so in a refreshingly broad and original manner. The ensuing chapters cover historical cases which individually demonstrate folklore, hoaxes, and genuine cryptozoological mystery. These pages include large amounts of quoted source material, interspersed with the author’s commentary, and eschews mainstream topics in favor of the more obscure and focused.
All in all, this book really does qualify as a bible of cryptozoology. It goes to great lengths to define the subject as a legitimate field of scientific inquiry, and it follows through with well structured real-life illustration of the important topics. This should be a must-read for anyone who wants to intelligently discuss or otherwise practice the science of cryptozoology.