Jurassic Park

Jurassic ParkJurassic Park by Michael Crichton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve had Jurassic Park on my shelf ever since the film adaptation appeared in theaters, sadly it took me this long to actually attempt to read it after my first attempt twenty years ago when I was still in elementary school.  After finishing Michael Crichton’s novel of a theme park with living dinosaurs gone wrong, I have to say I waited too long before read it.  The story, the characters (with development), and the thought-provoking scientific/philosophical dialogue are top notch combination that sinks the hook into the reader with each page they turn.

Since I’ve rated the book only 4 stars, there are obvious flaws that I felt detracted from the enjoyment of the overall piece.  While the majority of the characters were well rounded, a few characters that for sections of the book were prominent felt flat especially Hammond.  The lack of explanation of how the larger dinosaurs were getting off the island at the end as opposed to the boat being used by the smaller species and juveniles after how everything else was figured out left the ending a tad less wrapped up  However, even though the scientific knowledge was 20-25 years it didn’t turn out to be a hindrance to the enjoyment of the book.

After reading Jurassic Park, I am very much considering getting my hands on another Michael Crichton book.

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Shadow and Betrayal (Long Price #1-2)

Shadow and BetrayalShadow and Betrayal by Daniel Abraham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After years of reading recommendations about The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham and waiting to purchase all four volumes, I finally delved into the world Abraham created and I found myself pretty impressed.  This omnibus edition featured the first two volumes of the Quartet, A Shadow in Summer and A Betrayal of Winter, which not only introduce the world but are separated in time from one another to be both independent and interdependent on one another.

A Shadow in Summer:  Otah Machi turns away from the traditional paths a young nobleman like him has been told to choose to create a new life for himself.  Almost a decade later Otah under an assumed name meets a former pupil, Maati, who kept on the traditional paths and succeeded in training to be a poet.  The two soon find themselves caught up on a insidious conspiracy to ruin the city of Saraykeht that is instigated by the andat, magically being that is thought made flesh and leashed to a “poet”, Seedless who hopes to undermine his handler Heshai who is to teach Maati.

A Betrayal in Winter: Set fifteen years later after the first volume, Otah and Maati take different paths to the city of the former birth Machi.  The sons of the Khai kill one another for the honor to succeed their father, something Otah has no intention of taking part in as he continues his assumed existence.  However this eldest brother is murdered, but neither of the other two claim responsibility and conspire with the Dai-kvo to find the murderer is Otah by sending Maati to find out what’s going on.  Both men soon find themselves caught up in another conspiracy instigated by a surprising source allied with a not so surprising accomplice.

As stated before the two stories are independent from one another thanks to the 15 years separating them from one another, however they are connected through minor storylines seen in Shadow that are expounded upon in Betrayal.  The stories center around Otah and Maati primarily, however both do feature a significant female point-of-view character that helps bring another perspective to the story that improves its overall quality.  Abraham slowly explains his magical system that employs the andat by first seeing them from the training poet Maati’s point-of-view in Shadow and then from the point of view a poet handler in Betrayal in which Maati’s observations expounded upon.

On grading both stories on their own merits, Shadow is the weaker of the two as it seemed to meander a few times and would have been graded around a 3.5 out of 5 while Betrayal would have rated a solid 4 out of 5.  After finishing Betrayal I was left looking forward to seeing what would happen in An Autumn War, the third volume of the Quartet, a feeling I didn’t really have after finishing Shadow but was quickly forgotten since I was able to immediately start Betrayal thanks to this omnibus edition.  Overall I did enjoy both stories and so I recommend this book to lovers of characters, well-rounded stories, and fantasy.

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American Gods

American GodsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew coming into American Gods, it was going to be a different type of book than I had read before.  It was not only different, but challenging and weird, though that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good read.  The protagonist, Shadow, is released from jail days early to attend his wife’s funeral and begins a surreal journey across America physically and metaphysically as a bodyguard to Mr. Wednesday.  Throughout this journey Shadow meets gods both ancient, or at least an American incarnation, and modern as his employer attempts to rally the older gods to rise up and challenge the newcomers.  Given his special relationship to Wednesday, Shadow is targeted by what seem to be forces in the government and thus has to hide away in the small town of Lakeside.  And throughout all of this Shadow must come to terms with his wife’s death, though she keeps on visiting in various locations in the flesh.

The structure of the book mainly followed Shadow who, like the reader, is learning that the gods of past are real and very much in the now though because of innate privacy the reader doesn’t learn much about Shadow as a person throughout the book.  Yes, we learn things about Shadow but after spending almost 600 pages that his character dominates, we really don’t know him.  While some could consider this a flaw, personally I thought it was a strength of the novel.  At the end of some chapters Gaiman, through the writing of Mr. Ibis, describes how gods arrived in America through the travels of their believers.  Throughout the book there are several “interesting” scenes which might be disturbing for some readers or just frankly too weird for them.  I’ll be honest some of them were pretty out there, but knowing what I was getting into I was able to bare them.

After finishing the book, I was glad to have spent the time I did reading it and there is no other thing I can say to recommend it.  But I’m going to paraphrase a statement I made earlier: it’s different, challenging, and weird but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

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