Monthly Archives: September 2012

Dinosaur Summer by Greg Bear

Dinosaur Summer coverGeoscience factor: Dinosaurs

Spoiler: Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World is true.

Rating: 5

This will be my last dinosaur book review for a while. Probably. Most likely. I promise!

Dinosaur Summer tells a decently average story of Peter Belzoni, a teenager who gets caught up in an uncommon journey. As he travels with his father, Peter meets historical figures and has personal encounters with the fading world of traveling circuses and in the lost land of dinosaurs. Somehow Peter’s adventures are both interesting and mellow, with no rise and fall, no buildup, climax, or satisfying denouement. There are drawings that accompany the text and they are cute and quaint.

I would recommend Dinosaur Summer as a light read for dinosaur fiction or Greg Bear fans.

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Filed under adventure, book review, paleontology, youth

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

Gone Away World CoverBonus science: Apiology

Spoiler: Nick Harkaway’s second novel Angelmaker also has bees.

Rating: 11

I started The Gone-Away World a few paragraphs at a time. Every Saturday morning I  woke up, ate some dark chocolate, and sat in the morning sun to read the same sentences and maybe a few more. After a few months, I had the first chapter, after a few more months, the first few pages of the second chapter.

And the next moment, I had made it to the middle of the book without realizing that I had been displaced into Harkaway’s world. The opening sentences about a difficult, unknown bar populated by edgy strangers had seemed redoubtable at first, but later became addictive. The further I went along, the more I re-read. And when I finished, I wanted to re-read the whole book, in randomly sequenced pieces or straight through.

The characters, predicaments, and locales are recognizable and minutely specific, yet retain a certain vagueness to time and place so that when something in the real-world is pinpointed, it’s jarring. The world floats on Harkaway’s words, in the moment, in his wit and perspective, and in the thickness of convoluted, sensical ideas.

I didn’t like everything about the book; there were sections that dragged or were awkward. On first reading, the introduction of mimes seemed gratuitously clever and unnecessary, just as you would expect mimes to be. Towards the end, there was a moment of betrayal and I almost set down the book forever- how could an author as brilliant as Harkaway commit a literary crime so… so… so… you know…  But I slogged through the main character’s sloggishness and then re-read the beginning and the ending.

Even the roughness and imperfections I came to admire, because the stories and prose were wonderfully crafted and the sense of adventure for the characters and the language were so thrilling, that the avidness of the avid reader was visceral.

I highly recommend this book, knowing full well that my humble endorsement will raise your expectations impossibly high. And knowing that The Gone-Away World will still exceed those expectations.

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Filed under adventure, biology, book review, coolness, physics

Hogsel and Gruntel and other animal stories by Dick King-Smith

Hogsel and Gruntel coverGeoscience factor: Dinosaurs

Spoiler: Hogsel and Gruntel defeat the witch.

Rating: 7

Many of you may know Dick King-Smith because of the movie adaptation of Babe the gallant sheep-pig, but King-Smith wrote more than a hundred books.

Hogsel and Gruntel is a collection of children’s stories with some re-tellings and some new tellings, chosen for this blog because of the short story “Dinosaur School.”

The writing was simple and most enjoyable for its sense of humor. There were odd tidbits about the natural world, like when do hedgehogs hibernate, how many legs do octopi have, and what would a dinosaur do with two brains.

Much appreciated as well was the fact that while there might be lessons to be learned, most animals go along their grumpy way and seem to live life much as before without necessarily learning a moral.

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Filed under biology, book review, youth