Five Years Ago This Month: September 2013

Five years ago this month...

...I wrote my third retrospective post. This was the set of twenty books that included Finnegans Wake, a book I will never forget or forgive. I didn't write another retrospective post for three years, so this post really marks a low point for the blog.

...I asked what you were reading. This was the beginning of a short-lived series where I tried to generate discussion by writing open-ended posts asking what my audience was reading. Unfortunately I don't have an audience!

...I was distracted. Unsurprisingly all I seem to've done was watch tv.

My friends also made a delicious chicken and waffle meal!

R62. Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Year Published: 2017
Pages: 292

First Sentence: As he appears in an early photograph, William Johnson is a handsome young man with a crooked smile and a naive grin.

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton | Two Hectobooks

Review:
Dragon Teeth is Michael Crichton's stealth posthumous prequel to Jurassic Park, a book that I hope needs no introduction whatsoever at this time. I think the book is posthumous for a reason, but I did enjoy reading it, so there's that.

Now. I've read Jurassic Park and The Lost World, but did so way back in the mists of time. Here's what I remember about Jurassic Park:
  1. Fractals
  2. Alan Grant has a beard and likes kids
  3. Tim is older than Lex
Basically what has stuck with me after question mark years are the differences between the book and the movie. I don't remember what Crichton's prose was like in that book, or how exciting it may or may not have been.

Which is all sort of immaterial, because I'm here reviewing Dragon Teeth and not Jurassic Park.

Dragon Teeth is about a young man named William Johnson who, in 1876, ends up caught up in the Bone Wars between Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, two early real-world paleontologists and bitter rivals. Johnson's fictional, and just some guy. He travels west with Marsh's expedition, and then when Marsh abandons him, he joins Cope's expedition instead. After some, shall we say, setbacks due to the Indian Wars (concurrent to the Bone Wars, alas), Johnson ends up on his own with a whole bunch of dinosaur fossil bones in Deadwood, and has his own adventures returning to "civilization" in the eastern US.

So this was all well and good, but there were a few problems that prevented the book from being as much fun as it could've been. Mainly: Johnson is the least interesting person in this story, and his story doesn't involve any of the most interesting action. Of course there's a long tradition of boring point of view characters in fiction. The character we follow isn't that important as long as we're interested in the people they're with and the places they're in. But in this case, most of the book takes Johnson away from Marsh and Cope, who should be the real stars. It takes a hundred pages before we get any dinosaur bones, and then there's probably at least another hundred more with Johnson on his own and the bones in boxes.

The prose is decent. I haven't read enough Crichton to know anything about his style or whatnot, but one thing I did notice while reading Dragon Teeth was that some of the background info dumps (I don't like this descriptor, but it's all I can think of at the moment—what I'm referring to doesn't have a negative connotation) are written in a way that reads like pop non-fiction. I'm reading more and more of that these days, so I should know. I can't tell if this is a style choice or not, and it makes me nervous, because the style makes me feel like I need footnotes.

(I suppose I don't trust Crichton with this sort of thing because he was a climate change denier.)

In any case, the book was a super quick read and reasonably entertaining. I wouldn't start here with Crichton's work, though. If he'd really cared for this novel, he would've tried to publish it during his lifetime.

Current Distractions, August 2018 Edition

Wishing you all a happy end of the summer!

August has been a funny month, in that it was sweltering early on and then there was a precipitous nosedive to cooler temperatures that has immediately put me in the mood for fall (though I've resisted turning on the furnace in my house just yet). Meanwhile, I've been trying to continue to get out and enjoy the weather. I'm also trying not to drive myself insane with the enormous organization project I've undertaken, which has engulfed my living room for more weeks than I remember. Argh. Hope to have more exciting developments about how I've totally overhauled my life by the time next month rolls around.

Watching

Castle Rock
Duh. Only a couple episodes in but I'm liking it so far.

Popstar
Yes, I watched a movie for once! I really liked it!

Attack on Titan
Did I forget to mention that new episodes of this show have been appearing this summer? Oh man.

Babylon Berlin
Star Trek TNG

Listening
I'm sick of virtually every podcast I listen to. Please recommend some!

Player's Own Voice
This is a new CBC podcast that features interviews with athletes. I'm enjoying it so far, although it's still finding its legs.

Wild Rivers
I just discovered this band's 2016 LP and have been loooving it.

Reading
I have been obsessively tallying up page counts and days remaining in 2018 to see if I can read the eight or nine books that I really want to finish before the end of this year. At least four of them are over 500 pages long, so that could get interesting.