Saturday, January 29, 2022

Jurassic Park

I've considered reading Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park on and off over the years.  I love the Jurassic Park movie.  I also really, really liked Crichton's book Timeline when I read it years ago (before this blog existed. I thought it was the only Crichton book I've read, but I also apparently read Next over a decade ago; I don't remember it at all).  But I never got around to it.  I think I had a paperback copy for awhile, then got rid of it.  But then a few months ago I was talking to a friend about it and ended up picking it up on my Kindle.  My friend really liked it, and recommended it as a must read for dinosaur lovers.  

The movie follows the overall plot of the book fairly well, so if you've seen it, you know what happens.  Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler, and Ian Malcolm are all invited to John Hammond's island to tour his amusement park.  The lawyer, Donald Gennaro, wanted their help in assessing whether or not to close down the park.  Hammond also invited his grandchildren to the park in the hopes that their presence would help Gennaro see the wonders the park gave to children.  

The characters are a bit different from the movie though.  Lex is only 7 or 8 and a tomboy (and a very stereotypical annoying kid).  Tim is older and into computers as well as dinosaurs.  There's a PR person who takes them around on the tour.  And Dr. Settler (who is much younger than I would have thought) seems to mostly be present as an audience for Ian Malcolm's lectures.

They're also....kind of flat.  And honestly not particularly interesting people (I think because they're flat). 

There's also a lot of science throughout the book.  In Timeline, I remember the science being front heavy - once you got through the first bit, the science was all explained and the story just happened.  In Jurassic Park, the science is throughout the book, often halting the story to be explained.  And it's not just one kind of science: you've got genetics, paleontology, biology, chaos theory mathematics, computer science (the book hasn't aged particularly well in regards to the technology - it was written at a time when CD players needed to be explained in detail).  

Also: misogyny.  Everyone is so surprised that Dr. Sattler is a woman.  But then she gets to just do stereotypical woman things (go help take care of Dr. Malcolm while us men figure everything out), forgetting that she's just as smart as the men in the room.  It really bothered me knowing how great and active she was in the movie (a lot of the things she does in the movie are done by Gennaro in the book).

So all in all, I found Jurassic Park to be quite the let down.  But now I want to go and rewatch the movie, which I think is far better paced than the book was!

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Long Story Short

I bought Long Story Short: the Only Storytelling Guide You'll Ever Need by Margot Leitman last year, during a writing book buying-spree I went on. Apparently I didn't pay too much attention to it though, becauae it's actually a book about oral storytelling rather than writing. But that was okay - I found Leitman's writing super engaging, and some of her principles do translate to writing stories as well.

Long Story Short is a guide on how to tell true stories from your life to an audience, whether that is during a storytelling competition, as part of your work, or even just to a group of friends. Leitman discovered storytelling by accident when she was an aspiring actress in New York. Since then, she's told her stories on national television, won storytelling competitions, and started teaching others how to tell their true stories. While she covers the basics of crafting a story (specifically looking at things like condensing characters, and making sure your story has a beginning, middle, and end), the majority of the book is focussed on either finding your story, or on giving you the confidence to tell your story (and to tell it truly - don't embellish it!) 

Long Story Short is a super quick read (it's also a really cute little book). As I said, I really enjoyed Leitman's writing - you can tell she has a real knack for storytelling! I also liked how it gave great ideas for actually presenting stories - the next time I have to do any sort of presentation, I'll definitely be giving this book another read!

Sunday, January 9, 2022

A Few Graphic Novels - Jan 2022

 A friend of mine lent me some graphic novels a little while ago and I finally got around to reading them today. 

First was Return of the Valkyries, a random story where Jane Foster brings more Valkyries back (?) in the middle of Marvel's The King in Black event.  Right off the bat I was kind of in trouble because I knew nothing about The King in Black (but the book does a good enough job of giving you the gist of things so I get that it's like a chaotic god named Knull is attacking the earth with an army of symbiote-dragons).  It opens with Jane Foster ferrying the best super-human, Sentry, to death because he failed to stop the mad god (I'm not a comics expert, but I have never heard of this guy before so his death meant nothing to me). :( On the way to the afterlife, they find the body of the Celestial whose head is being mined elsewhere (where the Collector lives in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie).  The body has been trapping souls and manages to snag Sentry's.  While trying to get him back, Jane frees another lost soul (and fellow Valkyrie). They return to Valhalla where Brunnhilde fills Jane in on what they're dealing with (the Celestial's body is tied to Knull.  Breaking the bond between the two will weaken Knull.  But the rescued Valkyrie isn't interested in joining the fight, so Jane hatches a desperate plan with two others.

I found this one kind of hard to follow at times.  Yes, I understood the main plot and what was going on.  But I had a hard time keeping track of what all the characters were doing and why (and also who was dead vs who wasn't, as the dead Valkyries all show up to help).  I also have no idea what the rescued Valkyrie's name is (I'm sure it says it somewhere, but I didn't catch it, even though I caught her dead lover's name, and the names of some of the dead Valkyries).  This story also kind of felt out of place to read it on its own - it would probably be a lot better within the context of the King in Black storyline.

Next was Star: Birth of a Dragon. Star (aka Ripley Ryan) is a character from Captain Marvel.  While interviewing Captain Marvel, Ryan was kidnapped and later gained superpowers, attempting to kill Captain Marvel (she failed, but I think she killed many in New York).  To stop her, Captain Marvel ripped a hole through her chest.  But she didn't die.  Instead she somehow ended up bound with the reality stone.  Sentenced to prison on the Raft, she breaks out and just wants to be left alone.  But her uses of the infinity stone are clumsy, and she suddenly has a whole pile of superhumans looking for her to obtain it!

 This was a really interesting read.  Ryan is suffering from PTSD after being kidnapped and having Captain Marvel punch a hole through her.  She's trying to deal with that while also trying to control her new powers.  And to make everything worse, guess who shows up, but Captain Marvel herself!  I think what really made this story shine was at the end when Carol Danvers doesn't understand what happened (and just how traumatized Ryan is by her), why Ryan chose to make a deal with the Black Order rather than fighting with her and Scarlet Witch. I'm not sure if that PTSD will feature in future stories with this character, but I'm definitely interested to read more!

Finally, I read Crossover Volume 1: Kids Love Chains.  This one has a really interesting premise.  All the people of all the comic books have suddenly appeared in our world, blurring the lines between what is real and what is fake.  The comic people have erected a barrier over one of our cities.  Any of the comic people caught outside of the dome are immediately surrendered to the police when caught.  

In the middle of all this is Ellie, a young girl whose parents were caught on the other side of the dome.  She works in a comics shop with Otto.  When a young comic girl, Ava, is found in the shop, everyone panics and the shop is lit on fire.  Ellie, Otto, and Ava escape, and end up embarking on a journey to return Ava to her world (and hopefully find Ellie's parents along the way).  

I really, really enjoyed Crossovers.  It was a really interesting look at what could happen if our world collided with the fantasy world of comics (in a very District 9 kind of way).  The one issue I had with it was that I didn't really know who any of the characters in it were (although there was a list at the end with thanks to people whose characters appeared in this, so that was helpful).  I loved the ending, and can't wait to read more of Ellie's adventures!

Friday, January 7, 2022



For my first book of 2022, I decided to read Noor by Nnedi Okorafor, one of the library books I have out.  I really enjoyed the worldbuilding in her Binti series, so I was looking forward to more of the same.

Noor follows Anwuli Okwudili (or AO as she prefers to be called), a young woman who was born wrong (and later in a freak accident which made everything worse).  Against the wishes of her family and the larger society, she's had many cybernetic upgrades, which allowed her to walk.  But the larger society of Nigeria looks at her as a freak and devil as a result.  So one day when she goes to a market, one which she always thought was quite safe, where the people knew her, a group of men attacked her.  She fights back, and kills them.  Fleeing for her life, she makes her way north towards the desert and the Red Eye, a disastrous sandstorm that has cropped up on Earth that is similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot.  Taking herself offline, she fully intends to just go and die.  But she encounters a Fulani herdsman named DNA and his two remaining cows (GPS and Carpe Diem) who have also just escaped from their own tragedy.  And so they end up on the run together.

While the book is short (I think it's only 211 pages), I felt like it trudged forward, even during what should have been the faster paced action scenes. Which was odd, because then suddenly the book just seemed to end abruptly.  I will admit though, I did really enjoy the end, despite it feeling so hasty.

I also felt like it didn't spend enough time with the characters of the book.  I had a pretty good feel for AO, but I felt like I was being told about her, rather than being allowed to connect with her on an emotional level. That was true of the other characters too (although as you moved away from AO, I felt like you had less and less of a feel for anyone, including DNA).  

All in all, I found Noor to have some interesting ideas, particularly about identity and fitting in, but it just never came together as a whole for me. :(