I was relieved when listening to Darren Naish's podcast sometime after reading this book that I wasn't the only person tDon't be put off by the cover!
I was relieved when listening to Darren Naish's podcast sometime after reading this book that I wasn't the only person to find it anachronistic and ridiculous. Inside, many of the illustrations are far more naturalistic and, indeed, in keeping with what we currently know about dinosaurs' behaviour and appearance. Including feathers.
Having a professional interest in archeoornithology, in addition to the common small-boy-at-heart interest in dinosaurs, I was relieved to see that this book includes modern dinosaurs. Birds, in other words. That was a principal reason for me picking it up and I'm very glad I did.
The phrase 'popular textbook' sounds somewhat oxymoronic to me. I guess it must be a relatively common style of book but it's certainly not one I'm that familiar with. This succeeds by that measure though - the book manages to convey a broad overview of current evolutionary and palaeontological understanding of the animals in a manner that's engaging and not patronising. It's easy to recommend to anyone with a casual interest in these beasts who wants to learn a little more about them and how our knowledge (and theory) has changed dramatically in the last twenty years....more
I'm not sure what I expected from this but I know for certain now that it's really not my thing. I read, if that's the right word, the Android app verI'm not sure what I expected from this but I know for certain now that it's really not my thing. I read, if that's the right word, the Android app version, which includes digital 'dice'.
Roll dice to find out how likely you are to finish the book.
Get so far.
Start all over again.
With so so narration, this is a terrible way for me to experience a book. I remember reading one 'choose your own adventure' style book as a child (I'm not sure if it was in that range or not, only recently becoming aware that it was a range) and I remember re-reading every alternative option. Not, necessarily, because I enjoyed it, but because I wanted to know. In this kind of 'game book', particularly as a digital edition, you don't even have that option.
In fact, you don't have any options. Your passage through the narrative is entirely dice-based and if you get a bad roll, you have to start all over again - without even the reassurance that you can get back to where you were, so there's a lot of re-reading, a lot of skipping and did I mention a lot of dice rolling? Obviously some people think this is a fun experience and that's great. How you feel about this book and others like it will really depend on what you think of the word 'experience' and whether you prefer experiences in the form of luck-based games to be kept separate from your reading matter....more
I still find journalistic accounts unfairly infuriating for lacking scientific references. This particular 'investigation' (and I use the word looselyI still find journalistic accounts unfairly infuriating for lacking scientific references. This particular 'investigation' (and I use the word loosely) is better than many in that respect, providing footnotes suggesting at least some familiarity with primary sources.
It's a well-written account but I was disappointed by the very short-shrift given to the the ecological implications of wiping out a species and that's what this argument is. Make no mistake, GM mosquitoes are not an effort to wipe out the malaria virus, they're the latest weapon in trying to wipe out their carrier. In that respect, it's no different to DDT. Just as I thought no discussion of these very real environmental concerns was going to be forthcoming, one paragraph towards the end of the book sketched out that 'ecosystems are elastic, something else will take the mosquto's place'.
That is one theory. It's a hell of a theory to test in such a way though and the fact that that paragraph was included at all I find more dismissive than the complete omission of such a discussion would have been. Why write it at all if you're not prepared to fully consider it?...more
Now, get that image out of your head. Hardy Amies wasn't a mincing department store menswear salesman (in fact, he's rather disparagin
Suits you sir?
Now, get that image out of your head. Hardy Amies wasn't a mincing department store menswear salesman (in fact, he's rather disparaging of department store staff). Think, instead, of the Merchant Taylors' Company and all that it stands for. Imagine who you think might be attracted to such a profession.
Amies writes an engaging history of the suit. Born into a lower middle class family and achieving his own name over a door on Saville Row, he exhibits all the wonder and thrall to aristocracy and monarchy that you might expect - a textbook Tory. He also displays a very British wit. His history is loquacious and droll as well as authoritative. So while I may chafe a little at his Hyacinth Bucket tendencies I can still recommend this short book as an entertaining niche popular history book....more
Between other things in my life and the displacement that the new GoodReads homepage has induced in me, I find myself visiting GoodReads much less. SoBetween other things in my life and the displacement that the new GoodReads homepage has induced in me, I find myself visiting GoodReads much less. So much that this review comes two weeks after I finished the book, so my review is impressionistic.
As the story began, I was left with the impression that Markus Heitz never banked on getting his sequel published. I remember as I finished The Dwarves that I was surprised by its completeness. The worst legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien is born of his publisher's decision to print The Lord of the Rings in three volumes and the subsequent appetite that created among genre publishers for sprawling epics. The sprawling multi-volume series has just about become the norm for fantasy, and especially for high fantasy. The Dwarves is high fantasy, it is a multi-volume series, yet the story in the first book had definitely ended.
As a result, having built his hero up in traditional D&D ways during the first book, the beginning of the second saw the author systematically strip away all that he had earned in the first narrative. This second story was clearly set-up at the end of the first, with ominous signs in the sky, but I had to wonder how much the series had been planned if this was the way that the protagonist was treated: love-interest, weapon, kingdom, friends. All are taken away. Some might say that this is good writing and to an extent it does aid character development. In another, it points to a certain laziness redolent of British tabloid writers - a formulaic 'build 'em up, knock 'em down and build 'em up again' attitude; actually a lack of imagination that smacks of an RPG approach to narrative. That narrative is also progressed through prose that fell a little short of the standards of the first book (and, let's be clear, that book wasn't short-listed for the Booker).
The end, I felt, was also a little Hollywood for my tastes. Despite all that, I enjoyed the romp. Against my better judgement? Perhaps, but sometimes I want to be entertained rather than engaged - to switch off and not think. This is a dumb-action-movie of the literary world and for all that, there is character progression. Don't think these books add anything even to genre fiction but do enjoy them if that's your thing. I am....more
How you feel about that should guide you pretty fairly both as to how much you'd enjoy this book and as to how innovatDwarves!
Sorry, I mean - DWARVES!
How you feel about that should guide you pretty fairly both as to how much you'd enjoy this book and as to how innovative you'd think it is.
The UK has J.R.R. Tolkien, the USA George R.R. Martin, Poland Andrzej Sapkowski and Germany Markus Heitz. Each of these authors have written a series of books that have defied genre expectations by entering the bestseller charts in their respective countries and becoming familiar to non-genre fans. The worlds of each have been licensed for development into film or TV series and adapted into board and video games. Arguably, Heitz remains the least known of these authors in English speaking countries and I was intrigued to find out what the Teutonic fuss was about.
Laying my cards on the table, I have always been a fan of dwarves - even going so far as to practically hero-worship Flint Fireforge from the Dragonlance books when I was about eleven. With that admitted, I can also acknowledge a weakness in the way that Dwarves are usually portrayed in fantasy fiction that child-me couldn't see and that others are quick to criticise - they're often figures of fun. Even Tolkien's Dwarves are often little more than comic side-kicks, used to lighten what might otherwise be tense or dark moments (Gimli, in The Lord of the Rings, is perhaps especially prone to this abuse). Heitz sets out to offer some corrective to this.
If there is any innovation, then, that is the some total of it. His Dwarves are the the tragic heroes as well as the comic side-kicks. They are also as clearly Tolkien-influenced as any fantasy Dwarves since (although, as a side note, I did enjoy his affectionate and beautiful description of the hirsute female Dwarves). The plot, too, belongs to the epic fantasy genre that has aped The Lord of the Rings since it was first published. Reading in translation, it's impossible for me to judge the quality of the writing but I can say that in this translation it's probably no worse than Robert Jordan, often regarded as one of the better Tolkien imitators. I'd even go so far as to say that the translator (Sally-Ann Spencer) was aware of the Tolkien inspiration and worked with that in mind - I can't think of any reasons for using the German 'bögnilim' where 'goblin' might usually be used in epic-fantasy (particularly D&D derived fantasy) other than to avoid confusion for readers who might be used to Tolkien using the word as a synonym for his invented Orcs. Yes, orcs are here too. So are Elves, trolls and wizards. If there are any 'original' creatures/races then that title belongs to the Älfar, or 'not-elves' as I found myself referring to them.
For me, Tolkien remains the greatest fantasy writer. I haven't yet read any of Sapkowski's books but of the others mentioned at the beginning of this short review Heitz is the least original and, in translation, least stylish. That said, even if I'm not eleven any more, this book picks at a weakness for me and I will be reading the others in the series - innovative or not, it's nice to spend time with Dwarves that aren't (always) violent, drunk, axe-wielding clowns....more