Fiver's Reviews > Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time

Dinotopia by James Gurney
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's review
Nov 18, 2009

it was amazing

A very exceptional book, in many ways. Readers of this critique, please don't think that I'm giving this book five stars simply because it was a childhood favorite (and I openly admit to having loved this book since I was a child). Dinotopia is the kind of book that is so easy laugh at at the mere description: two travelers stumble on a hidden island where humans and dinosaurs live together! Break out the grenades, cavewomen, and giant apes, right?

The reason Dinotopia deserves five stars is that it rises above its seemingly 'silly' premise to make a book that will entertain and inspire people of any age. The beautiful paintings are colorful enough for young children, interesting enough for older children, and deep and rich enough for adults.

James Gurney is so devoted to the world of Dinotopia, to the culture, the language, the architecture, the clothing, and the characters, that I am amazed even today at how seriously I take the book. The story is told as a series of diary entries from the point of view of an explorer encountering the land for the first time, and there is (thank heaven!) very little plot or story conflict to get in the way of the presentation. Mr. Gurney takes advantage of the leftover space perfectly, by presenting audiences with a vibrant creation.

The thrill of Dinotopia rests surprisingly little on the dinosaurs themselves. Looking at the book now, I am shocked to realize that I was as intrigued by the architecture, language, and customs of Dinotopia as anything else. Those who think they could never swallow the idea of sentient dinosaurs (saurians in the book are treated as an interesting merging of peers with plowbeasts) may just be surprised at how unimportant the broad disregard of scientific accuracy is: Mr. Gurney has included the dinosaurs to add a sense of wonder, to show culture differences, and even to seriously examine what life would be like if, well, if we could have a friendly chat with a forty-foot taxi.

Altogether, this book is a wonder. It actually raises good adult questions about societies and cultures, but more importantly, it fully succeeds in pulling even the intelligent reader into a truly fantastic world. Enjoy!
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