Monthly Archives: July 2012

Footprints of Thunder by James F. David

Footprints of Thunder coverGeoscience factor: Dinosaurs

Bonus science: Time Space Continuum

Spoiler: If you try and kiss a girl, she will be eaten by a dinosaur, or something worse! Fossils don’t make sense!

Rating: 3

This just in from the News of the Strange- dinosaurs have been brought to you in New York, Florida, and Portland! See prehistoric creatures, witness modern-day panic! Behold James F. David’s attempt to be thrilling!

Footprints of Thunder is a mediocre read, from the bargain bin title that doesn’t quite fit the plot, to the generic cover art that doesn’t quite correspond to the story, on to the troubled characters that cobble together the catastrophic events. Even the writing bespeaks a passable literacy, relying heavily on cliché to tug at the reader’s heart and mind.

Base instincts drive humans and dinosaurs in similar ways, but the displaced dinosaurs’ primal impulses are more enthralling than the humans’. In particular the tale of the Iguanodon had me in tears. As you can guess, that storyline ended.

For a book that quotes prophecies at the beginning of almost every chapter, it’s odd that the humans live completely in the moment, reacting and acting without thought to consequence. Despite the government and scientific communities that David describes, David’s portrayal of individuals doesn’t allow for a society capable of contemplating the Time Space Continuum, much less destroying or repairing it.

As seems usual in these dinosaur thrillers, the U.S. president makes an appearance, prompting the patriot to wonder, “How will America once again save the world? Will American families be reunited? Will dinosaurs be granted citizenship?”

I leave it to you, Reader, to make the bold decision to either engage in this second-hand thriller or to send it off to the Goodwill in a plastic bag of oversized pants and a functioning VCR.

Leave a comment

Filed under adventure, biology, book review, physics

Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas J. Preston

Tyrannosaur Canyon coverGeoscience factor: Paleontology

Bonus science: Planets & space

Spoiler: There is a Tyrannosaurus rex in Tyrannosaur Canyon.

Rating: 4

From an Apollo moon landing to desert canyon landscapes, Tyrannosaur Canyon introduces a variety of places and people that are all linked by a treasure in New Mexico.

Douglas Preston has four heroes in Tyrannosaur Canyon, all of whom are the strongest and the smartest, and who are ultimately the voice of reason. The heroes are contrasted to the blundering, blustery villains as well as to the blundering, blustery misguided Lawmen, who become bad guys by default because they meddle and make things worse for the Handsome Veterinarian and the Resourceful, Beautiful Horse Trainer. The villains, a Mr.Prison-Lonely-Heart and a Cutthroat Museum Curator, have interesting back stories and although Preston delves with sympathy into their lives, the bad guys’ actions serve to make our protagonists’ more heroic.

And here we see Preston using several ready-made devices to make his heroes look good. Dumbing down antagonists is the first strategy. The second strategy is granting auras of brilliance to genius scientists who allude to high-level programs or scientific terms that no one else can fully understand. The brilliant Lab Technician makes brilliant discoveries and the brilliant Code-Cracker cracks the code. Yet determined scientists can also exhibit the single-minded flaws of idiots, tempting the reader to yell at a thin, pulpy page, “don’t pour that chemical there!” or “look behind you!”

The Tyrannosaurus rex stands out as a remarkable character, neither good nor bad.  T-rex simply exists and has a completely different point of view from the humans searching for her. I didn’t agree with all of Preston’s dinosaur speculation, but he was thorough in analyzing T-rex down to her bones and brain chemistry.

This was an enjoyable adventure that really picked up towards the last half of the book. Preston did his research and provided realistic details in unlikely places, all while building mystery and suspense with a surprise ending.

I would recommend this book, and notwithstanding previous crushed expectations, I plan on reading more of Preston’s works, fiction and nonfiction.

Leave a comment

Filed under adventure, book review, paleontology

Antarktos rising by Jeremy Robinson

Geoscience factor: Plate tectonics, seismology, climate change

Bonus science: Anhydrobiosis

Spoiler: Sedimentary rocks are found everywhere in the world! If you try and kiss a girl, a dinosaur, or something worse, will eat you!

Rating: 1

After reading Instinct by Jeremy Robinson, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for. But by the time our intrepid geologist started making claims about the literal truth of the Bible, but no other claims about literal truths of other religions despite references to literal Egyptian and Norse gods, I was feeling mighty suckered by Antarktos rising. Whereas Sarah Andrews discounts religion in Bone hunter, here Robinson discounts science, using definitions of scientific concepts for his own agenda.  The “facts” seem poorly understood by the author and are presented like evangelical tracts bent on converting the reader with exciting footage of dinosaurs, Nephilim, and the triumph of faith.

The blending of science fiction and fantasy is rather artificial. Since hardly anyone can successfully blend science fiction and fantasy, perhaps Robinson shouldn’t be judged too harshly for trying to pull a fast one over the reader. And fast it was ; the book clips along at a fast pace and had enough plot to fill a trilogy.

The racial, religious, and national stereotypes are condescending and offensive. Adventure writing has a not-so-illustrious history of stereotypes, but that doesn’t excuse Robinson’s portrayal of Arabs, Russians, or Chinese. The Brazilians were notably the only nationality not given any personality or characteristics, offensive or otherwise.

I mention with regret that Antarktos rising is a cool title and Robinson writes excellent adventure. He knows his suspense, develops strong characters, and his ideas for scientific possibilities are intriguing and unique. Robinson could be a good writer, maybe has good ideas, and could be very entertaining. But I feel that authors should show Truth about the world or about humanity, a Truth that goes beyond agendas, instead of authors molding and jamming Truth to fit in their personal belief.

Due to the ridiculous propaganda and objectionable stereotypes, I don’t recommend this book.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under adventure, biology, book review, structural

Bone hunter by Sarah Andrews, the remains of the review

Bone Hunter coverGeoscience factor: Forensic geology

Spoiler: In the 1983-84 T.V. movie and miniseries “V”, the aliens round-up all the “scientists.”

Rating: No longer rated

In retrospect, I wish that I hadn’t read the rest of Bone Hunter. I didn’t want to consider Em Hansen’s uninformed musings about Mormonism, polygamy, cults, drugs, man-hunts, faith, or conspiracies in the realm of paleontology. The reader may have figured out by now that I’m not fond of this sub-genre.

Andrews glosses over character, plot, and body-count. Em Hansen briefly expresses remorse about leading two people to their death, then moves on to diagnosing hypothermia (a result of one non-fatal mistake), romance (a logical conclusion to hypothermia and its treatment), and a fast and unsatisfactory dénouement (a teaser for more books to come).  As is typical in this kind of mystery, it’s not clear whether the sensational elements serve to explore humanity’s slimy underbelly or simply the author’s unpleasant imagination.

The author’s note at the end of the book could have redeemed the book, but didn’t, as Andrews’ “research” into the connections between science and religion remained unconvincing. Throughout the mystery and the author’s note, Andrews pretentiously throws around the term “scientist,” yet never offers serious evidence to justify her condescending attitude towards religion or people of faith.

I would recommend Bone Hunter and all other Sarah Andrews mysteries to readers who would in fact enjoy these books.

Leave a comment

Filed under book review, forensic geology, mystery, paleontology