Sometimes animals go extinct for a reason. In this case, dinosaurs went extinct thousands of years ago with no chance of ever returning. That is until a billionaire “creates” a technique for cloning dinosaurs from DNA extracted via the stomachs of fossilized insects. His crack team of scientists whip up some bona fide dinosaurs in no time and lock them away behind electric fences. Scientists from several different paleontological and biological specializations are invited to come and study these newly awakened prehistoric beasts. But things take a turn for the worst when a lowly worker on the island has dreams of a traitorous nature and shuts down the power. First of all, dinosaurs will never make a comeback via human scientists manipulating DNA. Even if scientists were able to discover authentic, non-diluted dinosaur DNA, it would be too degraded too extract a genetic sequence. Two, playing with nature will always result in something going horribly wrong. Three, Jurassic Park is an excellent thriller about a theoretical idea that has no basis in reality. However, the book is quite engrossing and probably fairly accurate about what would happen if dinosaurs ever returned. The book is just as good, if not better, than the now classic movie version.
Jurassic Park, Ballantine Books, 1993, ISBN 9780345370778
Yes, the famed Sherlock Holmes author did venture away from 221B Baker Street every now and then. The Lost World explores the idea that Dinosaurs never went extinct, they just retreated to a faraway plateau well away from modern civilization. This adventure novel follows Irish athletic reporter Malone as he narrates the tale of the bold Professor Challenger who is seeking out a remote Amazonian plateau. Challenger is convinced that this mythical place is the one location where all the “ordinary laws of Nature are suspended” and holds the answer to the “missing link” so to speak. He is expecting to find dinosaurs, ape-men, and a myriad of other prehistoric creatures. Accompanying Challenger and Malone are the skeptical Professor Summerlee, Lord John, and several members of the local Amazonian tribe. Doyle wrote The Lost World in 1912, right before he was pressured into resurrecting Sherlock from a certain death. Compared to the Holmes mysteries, the writing in this novel is incredibly dry. It is the epitome of Victorian writing. The characters are two dimensional and, frankly, uninteresting. However, the book is worth reading for the depiction of prehistoric life. Doyle’s descriptions elevate the narrative from boring to extraordinary. If nothing else, skip the first half of the book and read the descriptions about the life found on the plateau.
The Lost World, Modern Library, 2003, ISBN 9780812967258
Jules Verne is probably best known for his novel Around the World in 80 Days. Though, to modern audiences, he is probably best known as a line of text in the closing credits of one of the numerous movie adaptations. Today, most of his novels have fallen out of favor with any but the most ardent of readers. Journey to the Center of the Earth takes readers on an expedition into, well, the center of the earth. Verne wrote this novel long before scientists established that the earth has a liquid core. Narrative wise, our hero is the intrepid geologists Professor Liedenbrock. He embarks on the most daring expedition of the nineteenth century: traveling into the earth via an extinct volcano in Iceland. Along with his nephew Axel and their guide Hans, the professor discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric beats. This is science fiction at its nineteenth century finest. Not only does Verne take the reader on an imaginative journey, he also explores the psychological challenges of embarking on such a quest. Journey to the Center of the Earth takes a while to pick up speed and thoroughly engross the audience. It is typical of books published in the 1800s, the prose is rather long winded and there are numerous unnecessary paragraphs. However, it remains a science fiction classic to this day and is worth the reading effort.
Journey to the Center of the Earth, Bantam, 2006, ISBN 9780553213973
Burroughs is the mastermind behind the science fiction classics Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. In his heyday, Burroughs was a bit of revolutionary and crafted several tales that still hold popular appeal today. The Land that Time Forgot is a fantasy novel and the first in Burroughs Caspak Trilogy. Originally, the narrative was published as a three part serial in the Blue Book Magazine in 1918. In June of 1924 the three narratives were reedited for book publication. The current format of publishing the story as three short novels began in the 1960s with the Ace Books editions. Burroughs set his tale during World War I and begins the narrative by introducing the reader to a manuscript recovered off the coast of Greenland. It purports to be the written account of the adventures of one Bowen J Tyler, an American passenger who was shipwrecked when a German U-boat sunk his ship in 1916. He is rescued by a British tugboat. Eventually Bowman and several other sailors find themselves stranded on an isolated island in the Antarctic. Various adventures and biological explanations ensue. Burroughs puts his own unique twist on the prehistoric beast genre by creating a world where the biological system is quite different from the rest of the modern world. Overall, this is an excellent read with an original twist.
The Land that Time Forgot, Bison Books, 1990, ISBN 9780803261549
This novel and its sequel are not well known, at least not anymore. One of the reasons is a lot of fabulous science fiction was published in the late 1970s and lesser known works tended to fall between the cracks. While McCaffrey’s novel is interesting, it is not executed in the best way. As such, the narrative tends to fall a tad flat during a few key moments. Dinosaur Planet follows a crew of ship bred technicians who are sent to the planet Ireta on a routine mission to catalog flora, fauna, and search for new energy sources. Kai and Varian follow all the standard procedures, but something totally unexpected soon occurs. When the rescue ship mysteriously disappears, Kai and Varian find themselves surrounded by the giant inhabitants of the nearby swamp, deadly predators, and dinosaurs. Several interesting biological changes begin to occur and various crew members begin to mutiny. This new and unexpected behavior leads them all into the darkness of a primitive planet with numerous mysteries still waiting to be discovered. The writing style of Dinosaur Planet is quite different from McCaffrey’s famous Dragon Riders of Pern series. For the most part, the writing is rather dry and sometimes the pacing is a little off. However, the story is interesting and different enough to be engrossing.
Dinosaur Planet, Del Rey, 1978, ISBN 9780345319951