Last night I finished off Jurassic Park before diving in to Heilmann’s The Origin of Birds, and it was an overall fun read. Like I said in an earlier post, it is curious that Crichton doesn’t describe much about the physical appearance of the dinosaurs, which speaks to how familiar they have become. Also curious was his decision to give some of them, the “raptors” especially, tongues that flicked in and out like a monitor lizard or snake; be does make allusions to their relationship with birds, yet gives them a very reptilian characteristic. Odd. Further, Ian Malcolm is said to have died at the end of the book, but he is the star of the sequel The Lost World, the only explanation (as far as I can remember) being “rumors of [Malcom's] death have been greatly exaggerated.” In fact, Malcolm’s role as the author’s voice got to be a bit annoying, and often characters in Chrichton’s book seemed to find themselves in perilous or terrifying situations, only to wax philosophical or seemingly ignore the Tyrannosaurus chasing them. Still, I can’t say it wasn’t an enjoyable read, and I think Crichton peaked with this book.
I also received the trade paperback compilation of Dark Horse Comics “Age of Reptiles: Tribal Warfare.” The book has a very William Stout-ish feel to it, and although the dinosaurs are all out of whack temporally and are a bit anthropomorphic (they have pupils and open jaws when shocked or so, they have no pupils and snarl when angry, etc.) it’s still great fun (and not nearly as annoying as Disney’s Dinosaur). The book is a bit gory (hell, issue one was a Saltosaurus being ripped open on the cover!) but despite the lack of dialog it’s easy to follow and appealing to the eye (the artist is at his best when drawing Brachiosaurus, but then again the carnivores are suppossed to have more personality so you can distinguish them). If you want to pick up a copy, there are 2 left on amazon.com (but if you’re not a huge dino fan you might consider 38 bucks for the book a bit of a rip off [I got it cheaper, so I guess there's a bit of a price jump in the used copies]) and I’ll post my thoughts of “Age of Reptiles: The Hunt” when it arrives in the next few days.
Also, I was able to track down a copy of The Loch Ness Horror on DVD, and it should arrive any day now. I only remember seeing it once or twice, and it is a huge piece of movie cheese, but when I saw a DVD for 12 bucks (the rare VHS goes for over 100 dollars) I had to grab it. Likewise, The Legend of the Dinosaurs is rumored to get a release this year, as is Planet of Dinosaurs (not OF THE, just OF). I actually received the 2001 edition of Planet of Dinosaurs through Netflix last night, and oh boy did it stink. The stop motion dinosaurs supervised by paleo-artist Stephen Czerkas [scroll down] are neat, if wrong, but the acting is terrible and the soundtrack incredibly annoying. There’s even a Flintstones-esque ending to book that would be sure to please some creationists, too. What I found most interesting, however, was the explanation for an earth-like planet with dinosaurs on it; one of the characters explains that because the planet is like earth, it must go through the same kind of evolution, so dinosaurs mean that the planet they’re on is much younger than earth. This reminded me of the great “replaying the tape” debate Stephen Jay Gould and Simon-Conway Morris had in the pages of Natural History, and I have to say that I side firmly with Gould; I don’t think there’s any force that would cause evolution to occur in precisely the same way if all else were equal to earth on a forming planet. The movie also wanders aimlessly into “survival of the fittest” country, with a gruff survivor advocating going out and subduing the cruelty of nature because being nice will only get you killed. Anyway, if you’re a MST3K fan like me and don’t mind making your own jokes while watching some stinky films, I’d give Planet of Dinosaurs a go (and if you haven’t already seen it, you’ve got to check out Night of the Lepus; nothing like a man in a bunny suit to scare the daylights out of you).