Ah, Jurassic Park, a keystone moment in movie history where dinosaurs were brought to the silver screen in such an indelible way. I don't think it wou
Ah, Jurassic Park, a keystone moment in movie history where dinosaurs were brought to the silver screen in such an indelible way. I don't think it would be inaccurate to say the movie franchise (especially with the most recent entry of Jurassic World) has significantly overshadowed the book. Heck, I only just got to reading it now, 23 years after the movie was released. Having recently seen the movie, I was struck by the differences between the novel and the movie. Some changes were welcomed, others lost some of the book's depth in the translation.
First off most of the characters are portrayed a bit differently in the movie from the book. In the book John Hammond is not the lovable grandfatherly figure Richard Attenborough portrayed in the movie. Book Hammond was rather narcissistic and self-absorbed. Where as the Movie Hammond experienced some humility by the end, it seemed like Book Hammond had a restraining order out against that emotion. Nothing could possibly go wrong with his brilliant idea, the government was an unnecessary impediment on human progress, and when things do go wrong they are the fault of his (highly trained specialist) underlings and their lack of vision. He is a nice enough man if you are agreeable with him, but if you cross him he will treat you rather poorly. All in all a less sympathetic (though a bit more believeable) of a character.
Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler are not romantically involved in the book and there is in fact a large age difference between them. This pleased me because it allowed the characters to shine without having to devote time to a romantic plot-line or undercurrent. They are both very capable and knowledgeable in the book and easy to root for. While separated for most of the book they are very calm and collected under pressure and maintain an effective mentor-student relationship. They were great in the movie, but I think I liked them more in the book.
Jeff Goldblum is Ian Malcolm, nuff said.
John Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson from the movie and Park Operator), Henry Wu (chief scientist), and Robert Muldoon (big game hunter and park warden) are explored in much more depth than in the movie and provide some fascinating insights into the events as they unfold.
Arnold comes from en engineering and theme park operations background. As such he views the park through his own experiences, knowing that things will go wrong and how to best deal with them. He isn't caught up in the grand vision of Hammond and treats the park problems as things that will occur as a matter of course and that can be fixed.
Wu, the brilliant scientist behind the miracle of resurrected dinosaurs, views things through a highly scientific lens. He is much more interested in the process and methodology that went into creating them than the end product. He isn't married to the notion of bring back dinos as they were, but instead pushes to explore how they could be using the techniques he has developed. He clashes with Hammond on this topic, wanting to expand science while Hammond is more than content with just cranking out existing dinos and not meddling with their appearance.
Muldoon is a former big game hunter turned conservationist. He has hunted plenty of dangerous game and has no rosy eyed vision on what dinos are: they are big, smart, dangerous creatures that should be treated with respect of rocket launchers, depending on what the situation calls for. He knows what needs to be done when things (inevitably) go wrong and provides a very pragmatic view of the park and its inhabitants.
All in all, the secondary characters provide a wide and nuanced view of the experiment Hammond is trying to pull off. This really gave the book a very nice bit of depth beyond "Amusement Park Tries to Kill its Guests." Where as the movie was very much about surviving dino related deaths, the book took time to explore different views on the park and serve as a cautionary tale about pushing the boundaries of science too quickly. Malcolm seems to be the avatar of this view, noting "Story of our species, everyone knows its coming, but not so soon."
Crichton also adds in some moments of levity so it isn't all scientific doom and gloom/raptor attacks:
"I don't see him [juvenile T-Rex] at the moment." "Maybe he's down hunting the apostasaurs." "He would if he could, believe me. Sometimes he stands by the lagoon and stares at the animals, and wiggles those little forearms in frustration."
But this was by no means a flawless book. I thought Crichton got a little too hung up on technical details and spelled some things out a but to specifically when a general comment would have sufficed. This was especially true as we are shown the computer interface that must be used to save the day at the end. Speaking of the end, I felt the book end was rather sloppy. Instead of ending like the movie with the survivors flying away, Crichton decided that Grant et. al. needed to do a a head count of all the raptors to insure that none escaped to the mainland. While possible important, it really threw the flow off of the narrative.
All in all, though, this book was quite riveting. Up until the end it had a great pace, fascinating characters, and a great plot. If you liked the movie, you'll love the book....more
Murder at the Vicarage, aka: Miss Marple: Origins, is the first Miss Marple mystery by the indomitable Agatha Christie. Interestingly enough, this wasMurder at the Vicarage, aka: Miss Marple: Origins, is the first Miss Marple mystery by the indomitable Agatha Christie. Interestingly enough, this was written from the point of view of the eponymous Vicar and Miss Marple herself appears in only a minority of the book. Like any Miss Marple murder, this takes place in a small English village with a seething under current of gossip, hidden affairs, love, hate, envy, classicism (so much classicism), and a police force who simply cannot solve the murder without the help of a gossip mongering old woman.
Miss Marple herself, while a very sharp mind, is little different from most of the old women in the village, always poking her nose into others affairs and gossiping with the best of them. Apart from the fact that she is often right and much more insightful about human nature, she really is the sort of person you would not want to live next to because not a single secret of yours would stay that way for long.
The mystery itself was quite fascinating. The victim was pretty much loathed by everyone in town so there was no shortage of suspects. Like a real town there were many of currents of human events already swirling around before the murder happened. What was connected with the murder and what was happenstance were tricky for our heros to sort out. In fact this book was just as much about the people of the town and their relationships as it was about the murder itself, as they were all so closely tied together.
Christie does an excellent job painting a picture of this town and the characters in it as well as them murder itself in both a very accessible, but very nuanced manner. It was easy to get sucked into the story and all its many twists and turns (of which there were many). My only real complaint about the book was the Vicar character. He was much too uptight for my liking and stole screen time from other, more interesting characters, especially Miss Marple.
Still, the story was very compelling and the details of the crime itself rather inventive. If you enjoy mysteries this is an absolute must read of the genre....more
I wouldn't be surprised if Lysistrata was the first sex comedy (that's a genre, right?). Sex (or lack there of ) drives the plot and innuendos abound:I wouldn't be surprised if Lysistrata was the first sex comedy (that's a genre, right?). Sex (or lack there of ) drives the plot and innuendos abound:
Lysistrata: But I tell you, here's a far more weighty object. Calonice: What is it all about, dear Lysistrata, that you've called the women hither in a troop? What kind of object is it? Lysistrata: A tremendous one! Calonice: And long? Lysistrata: Indeed, it may be very lengthy. Calonice: Then why aren't they here? Lysistrata: No Man's connected with it; if that was the case, they'd soon come fluttering along. No, no. It concerns an object I've felt over and turned this way and that for sleepless nights. Calonice: I must be fine to stand such long attention.
On its surface this play is about the women of Greece withholding sex from the men to force them to make peace during the destructive Peloponnesian War. In truth I am pretty sure Aristophanes just wanted an excuse to make as many sexual innuendos and gender stereotypes as possibly.
Lysistrata: We must refrain from every depth of love... Why do you turn your backs? Where are you going? Why do you bite your lips and shake your heads? Why are your faces blanched? Why do you weep? Will you or won't you [join me in the sex strike]... Myrrhine: No I won't. Let the war proceed.
Cinesias: Don't go, please don't go, Myrrhine [his wife and a sex striker]. At least hear our child... don't you feel pity for the child? He's not been fed or washed now for six days. Myrrhine: I certainly pity him with so heartless a father... ... Cinesias: You love me! Then dear girl, let me also love you. Myrrhine: You must be joking. The boy's looking on. Cinesias: Here, Manes, take the child home! ... There, he's gone. There's nothing in the way now.
The women fret about their homes going to ruin while they are away. One even tries to fake a pregnancy:
Lysistrata: What nonsense is this? Woman: I'll drop any minute Lysistrata: Yesterday you weren't with child. Woman: But I am today. O let me find a midwife Lysistrata. O Quickly! Lysistrata: Now what story is this you tell? What is this hard lump here? Woman: It's a male child. Lysistrata: By Aphrodite, it isn't. Your belly's hollow, and it has the feel of metal... Well, I soon can see. You hussy, it's Athene's scared helm, and you said you were with child.
Some, however, are pretty damn good at messing with the mind's of their men:
Myrrhine: But how can I break my oath? Cinesias: Leave that to me, I'll take all the risk Myrrhine: Well, I'll make you comfortable Cinesias: Don't worry. I'd as soon lie on the grass Myrrhine: No, by Apollo, in spite of all your faults I won't have you lying on the nasty earth... Rest here on the bench, while I arrange my clothes. O what a nuisance, I must find some cushions first. Cinesias: Why some cushions? Please don't get them! Myrrhine: What? Plain, hard wood? Never, by Artemis! That would be too vulgar Cinesias: Open your arms! Myrrhine:...Here the cushions are. Lie down while I - O dear! but what a shame, you need more pillows. Cinesias: I don't want them dear. Myrrhine: But I do... Why, you've no blanket. Cinesias: It's not the silly blanket's warmth but yours I want. Myrrhine: Never mind. You'll soon have both. I'll come right back... Would you like me to perfume you? Cinesias: By Apollo, no! Myrrhine: By Aphrodite, I'll do it anyway!
etc etc etc
(Sufficed to say, the oath was not broken, though I think the poor man's will was)
Aristophanes also takes plenty of opportunities to insert sexual innuendo because he can:
[after peace has been agreed upon] Athenians: I want to strip at once and plow my land. Spartans: And mine I want to fertilize at once.
Men's chorus: We must take a stand and keep to it, for if we yield the smallest bit to their importunity then nowhere from their inroads will be left to us immunity...And if they mount, the Knights they'll rob of a job, for everyone knows how talented they all are in the saddle, having long practiced how to straddle...
In spite of all the sex and joking, the play does have a few good messages:
Lysistrata: You [men] wrack hellenic cities, bloody Hellas with deaths of her own sons, while yonder clangs the gathering menace of barbarians.
Lysistrata: It should not prejudice my voice that I'm not born a man, if I say something advantageous to the present situation. For I'm taxed too, and as a toll provide men for the nation while, miserable greybeards... contribute nothing of any importance whatever to our needs.
But mostly this was a play about sex and sex jokes that were shockingly modern in their convention (might have just been the translation). This was a quick and enjoyable read, just remember this was meant to be a bit of an absurdist satire so don't take the actions and decisions of the characters very seriously. ...more
So this short little book is a collection of stories by Truman Capote, the flagship and most famous being Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Breakfast at Tiffany'So this short little book is a collection of stories by Truman Capote, the flagship and most famous being Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Breakfast at Tiffany's: I honestly had no idea what this was actually about. The extent of my exposure to this was the image of Audrey Hepburn:
And an incredible racist Asian caricature portrayed by Mickey Rooney:
Thankfully the book did not have a terribly racist caricature (which makes me wonder why the movie had one) and was in fact rather engaging. Told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator, we get caught up in the whirlwind that is Holly Golightly. Characters are sharp, relationships feel, and the plot was surprisingly engaging. Certainly worth checking out, it is a short, quick read that I finished on a plane ride.
House of Flowers: A short little story about a Caribbean prostitute that finds what she thinks is true love with a mountain boy. Great prose but a rather meandering and uninteresting story.
A Diamond Guitar: A somewhat bittersweet take about friendship and betrayal in a southern work prison.
A Christmas Memory: Another bittersweet tale about the love between a young boy and his mental diminished much older aunt. They have a very touching and loving relationship and this story centers around a Christmas tradition of making fruitcakes.
All in all a mixed bag, I enjoyed Breakfast at Tiffany's a lot but felt the other stories just didn't resonate with me. Capote is clearly a very talented writer, just not my cup of tea. ...more
Texts from Jane Eyre takes a nice poke at some of literature's greatest characters and works, re-imagining them in a world with texting. Ortberg doesTexts from Jane Eyre takes a nice poke at some of literature's greatest characters and works, re-imagining them in a world with texting. Ortberg does a lovely and loving job magnifying the flaws of great literary characters through this medium. Here are some of my favorites:
Medea: anyhow so to SHOW YOU how soft my feelings are I got you guys a wedding present!!!... Glauce [Jason's new bride]: oh! you must mean the box that came on Thursday Medea: yessssss I TOTALLY MEAN THAT Glauce: it's a dress Medea: It's a wedding dress Glauce: thank you I mean, I already have a wedding dress picked out but this is very sweet Medea: do you know what you should do though you should put it on you should put it on your skin and wear it for just a minute (be sure to put it on your skin) :-):-):-)
Medea: I sent you guys something Glauce: I don't think we have anything Medea: look outside Glauce: it's another box Medea: THE BOX IS FROM ME (are you surprised) Glauce: a little bit how did you know where we live Medea: i mean how does anyone know anything right you should open the box right now Glauce: it's a cake Medea: for your wedding! so just go ahead and eat some right now to make sure that it's normal and good for the wedding and tell me if you like it!! Glauce: Medea Medea: are you eating it how does it taste Glauce: Medea I'm not eating this cake Medea: oh sorry can you not eat processed flour i should have asked do you have allergies Glauce: Medea I'm not going to try on the dress or eat this cake Medea: why not??? Glauce: you know why they're both full of poison Medea: whaaaat Glauce: the cake is black and the icing ate through the box Medea: how would poison even get in there Glauce: the dress caught on fire that's how much poison was on it Medea: well i'm going to i'm going to have a very stern talk with that seamstress ill get you another present to make up for it Glauce: please don't
Rudyard Kipling: I'm bored Let's shoot something Friend: okay What Rudyard Kipling: i don't care a tiger or a Boer Friend: what was that last one? Rudyard Kipling: I mean a bear Friend: oh OK Rudyard Kipling: haha must have been a weird typo it's illegal to hunt men but exhilarating Friend: what? Rudyard Kipling:I said it was illegal and also execrable execrable was the second word I said
Enjolras: where are you? Marius: I am so there this barricade is going to be an absolute HAPPENING you guys don't start without me I am on my way in like five minutes Enjolras: Marius I'm concerned that you don't really understand the reason for our movement MArius: oh my god what do you mean Enjolras: I sometimes question your commitment to the cause Marius: how could you possibly even question that Enjolras: I don't know Marius maybe it's because you have missed every one of our clashes with the police because you were still studying for the bar Marius: to bring down the system from within! Enjolras: Marius your father is a baron He's an actual baron Marius: well only a Napoleonic baron Enjolras: That's still a baron Marius: well when you say it like that
Jake: Brett Brett did you get that picture I sent you Brett: I did, yeah Jake: the picture of my penis I mean Brett: yes Jake: Brett guess how much of my penis I still have left you know after my accident after my penis accident Brett: I don't really want to play this game, Jake Jake: come on, guess Brett: I don't have unlimited texting these messages are kind of expensive for me Jake: I'll give you a hint it's definitely SOME
Holmes: this is quite a puzzle, Watson Watson: damned right, Holmes hell of a puzzle what I want to know is how did the vicar know the archbishop's Pekingese had developed an immunity to snake bites? Holmes: there's only one thing we're missing only one thing we need that will help us solve this case Watson: we need to question Lady Emily again Holmes: no, Watson Watson: oh it's not ... Holmes: COCAINE, WATSON Watson: ah Holmes: we're going to need loads of cocaine SCADS of it
As you can see no cow is sacred and there is more than a little truth in these portrayals (especially Marius, man do I loathe that guy).
I will say that, even though I am somewhat well read, there were many references that went right over my head. Overall though, this was a brisk and entertaining read. I would certainly checkout a sequel if one was written and if you are familiar with the classics you will also enjoy the heck out of this book....more
So I've had this book since forever. I remember really enjoying it as a child and it still holds its old charm for me as an adult.
For those not in theSo I've had this book since forever. I remember really enjoying it as a child and it still holds its old charm for me as an adult.
For those not in the know, this is a wump (or more specifically, several wumps):
They are likely the reason I find Capybaras awesome. For those ignorant of these fair beasts, here is a picture of one:
Here is a picture of a family of them:
And here is one with a caiman:
OK, maybe I am just using this review as an excuse to post Capybara pictures, but the resemblance is striking.
Anyway, since this site is called GoodReads and not GoodLargeRodents, suppose I should talk about the book.
It is a very straight forward environmental parable about the perils of resource exploitation and non-sustainable economic growth wrapped up in a Manichean conflict between nature and industry with our poor wumps stuck in between.
The villains of this morality play are the aptly named "Pollutians", refuges from a previous planet they spoiled. Having learned nothing from their previous lifestyle they continue their non-sustainable way of life, driving the poor wumps underground. The Pollutians use up the planet's resources, foul its environment, and generally make a mess of things. However, instead enacting policies and changes to their way of life, the Pollutians instead send out scouts to find a new planet. The Pollutians leave when they find such a planet, letting the wumps reclaim their broken planet. Since this is a children's book it naturally turns out alright as nature finds a way to overcome the Pollutians damage and the wumps return to their idyllic lifestyle.
On the surface this is a good lesson to teach children: respect the environment and don't pollute. I certainly would want these values instilled in the next generation. However, the wumps in this book are very passive. They cannot and do not resist the Pollutians, fleeing to underground caverns. If the Pollutians never left they would still be down there, living out their dark and meager existence. A better lesson for children is to be proactive in dealing with problems and not hide underground waiting for the solution to happen on its own.
Further, the ending also teaches a level of passivity. The Wump World is able to naturally repair the damage caused by the Pollutians. But this is not always the case in the real world. Environments have been permanently damaged by pollution and resource exploitation. Waiting around for nature to fix it or for the industries that damaged the environment to leave the planet are not reasonable responses to real world problems. Extractive industries won't pick up and leave the planet, they will pick up and move to a different part of the planet. Without environmental protections we could very well end up like the Pollutians of Wump World, but without the benefit of interstellar travel.
So by all means read this book to your children, but be sure to stress the importance of a being proactive in solving problems.
OK, that is kind of a bummer to end on. How about more Capybara pictures!!!!!
My parents got me this book as a birthday gift during the height of my fascination with WWII history (late middle school through high school). I had hMy parents got me this book as a birthday gift during the height of my fascination with WWII history (late middle school through high school). I had heard about references to this book and how it predicted a lot of the events that would transpire during the actual Pacific War between America and Japan. While I enjoyed reading this a lot, I think the author got just as much right (surprise attack on the US Fleet, kamikaze attacks, etc.) about the conflict as he got wrong such as:
-Aircraft carriers would only be useful for scouting purposes and not be a decisive instrument of war. -Japan would cripple the Panama canal to prevent the flow of material from the Atlantic to the Pacific. -Japan would launch the war in order to forestall domestic social unrest (namely communist influence among industrial workers). -Americans of Japanese ancestry would rise up in Hawaii to disrupt the American war effort. -Poisonous gas would be used in combat.
Of course I can't blame Bywater for being wrong, the man wasn't psychic.
He was very good writer who crafted a very believable conflict between the U.S. and Japan. He had a very good eye for technical details of military equipment as well as military strategy. The story primarily concerns itself with the disposition of military forces and material with little in terms of characters or character development. It isn't a book in a conventional manner, more like a series of newspaper dispatches from an omniscient reporter detailing the developments of the conflict (which makes sense since Bywater was a Naval correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph).
All in all I really enjoyed this bit of speculative military fiction and would recommend it for any WWII buff. It was different enough from the actual Pacific War that the developments and battles felt fresh. My only quibble was that (at least in my version) the beginning over every chapter had a quick synopsis of what would happen in that chapter. So much for literary tension!...more
On the surface the Left Hand of Darkness was about an emissary from an intergalactic organization of planets attempting to bring a new planet into theOn the surface the Left Hand of Darkness was about an emissary from an intergalactic organization of planets attempting to bring a new planet into the union. The world in question, however, is quite unique. Apart from being near the extreme cold end of planets that can support human life (the planet is informally referred to as Winter by the Emissary), the humans that inhabit it are ambisexual. During most of the month they are neither male nor female, but for several days they will enter a phase of sexual activity where they can possess either male or female... qualities.
The Left Hand of Darkness struck me more as a world building exercise than a straight forward story. It interspersed the main narrative with bits of folklore from the planet Winter's culture. The first half of the book alternated every other chapter in this manner and then gave way to the main narrative for most of the rest of the story.
I did find the concept of a (primarily) asexual society interesting. Le Guin posits some interesting impacts on society of this arrangement (no concept of war, philosophical alignment more with holism than dualism, etc.). I really would have liked a more in depth examination of the various cultures on the planet but felt that the narrative drive and the perspective it was written from limited this option.
Viewing the society from the outsider's perspective did little to deeply explore the world. Once the narrative switched to a native, there was little discussion of the wider Winter culture and instead concentrated on the day to day experience of the native.
Then there was a huge chunk of the book that was just the Emissary and his companion traversing hundreds of miles of ice and snow. I suppose Le Guin wanted to take that time to grow and develop the relationship between the envoy and the native but it just felt like this section (which occupied what felt like 25% of the book) was very repetitive and uninteresting. Try to travel, run into obstacle x (maybe a blizzard, maybe bad ice), stop for a bit, eat rations, rinse and repeat. It really killed what little momentum the book had.
So this book could have been really great. I think Le Guin did an excellent job creating this fictional world and society (really top notch soft sci-fi) but fell flat in showing the reader the world. The main narrative provided too narrow of a view. There was a lot of telling but not enough showing. At the end of the day the lackluster story overshadowed the fascinating world Le Guin conceived....more
Peter Pan: Narcissistic, charismatic, cult leader that steals young boys to fill out his army of "Lost Boys" while inciting strife between the indigenPeter Pan: Narcissistic, charismatic, cult leader that steals young boys to fill out his army of "Lost Boys" while inciting strife between the indigenous population of Never Neverland and his followers; prohibits his "Lost Boys" from thinking the wrong way (maintains a strict anti-mother policy); steals a young girl to provide the trappings of motherhood with none of the moral or emotional development mothers provide their offspring; traffics with fairies and other unnatural being, likewise using them to further his own short sighted and capricious whims. Avoid contact if possible and report sightings to Captain James Hook of Eton.
The above is why I couldn't identify, or even root for, Peter Pan in this classic. He is the very embodiment of irresponsible boyhood and people actually suffer for it. While not shown in the story it is alluded that the "savages" have several Lost Boys' scalps, but only have hostile relations with the "Lost Boys" when Peter is around. He leads his followers into deadly situations with Neverland's "savages" and resident pirates, blissfully ignorant of the consequences for his followers. Peter Pan possess no redeeming moral qualities, which is to be expected as he is an avatar for young boys....more