Science Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Review: Jurassic Park

Cover of Jurassic Park, featuring the silhouette of a t-rex skeleton on a white background
Image from Michael Crichton

Title: Jurassic Park

Author: Michael Crichton

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

Back Cover:

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Creatures once extinct now roam Jurassic Park, soon-to-be opened as a theme park. Until something goes wrong … and science proves a dangerous toy ….

Review:

I lost interest in dinosaurs in second grade, I’m not a big fan of adult books, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the Jurassic Park movie. So until it was a book club book, I had no intention of ever reading this book.

So, I want to mention characters, but I’m not sure which ones to mention. There’s Grant and Ellie the archeologists, Ian Malcom the mathematician (and my favorite character for reasons I’m not sure of), John Hammond who created the island, Hammond’s grandkids Tim and Lex, and various employees. All of them played an important part at some point or another, and I liked (or in some cases, hated) them all in varying levels. But none of them stood out as “I really liked him” or “she’s the main character.”

I was surprised that I enjoyed the plot. The movie missed a lot of details, which was sometimes a good thing but most of the time managed to keep me interested. And the rampaging dinos managed to keep my attention. Sometimes it wasn’t as thriller-y as I think it was supposed to be, probably because I didn’t care about the characters as much as I should have, but I still occasionally found myself hoping certain characters would survive (and sometimes that others would get eaten). There was a lot of gore at times, sure, but I’m not sure a book about carnivorous dinosaurs could have got away without it. Overall, I was happily interested.

My biggest problem with the book was that it got bogged down in scientific details every once in a while. I don’t care which isotopes they extracted to piece together the dinosaurs’ DNA. All I need to know is that it can be done. And as not a huge fan of chemistry or biology, I found most of the sciency stuff boring.

I didn’t exactly enjoy Jurassic Park, but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hate it. Do I plan on reading any more of Crichton’s books? No. But I don’t regret this read.

The Jurassic Park series:

  1. Jurassic Park
  2. The Lost World
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Historical

Review: War Horse

Cover of "War Horse," featuring a brown horse looking over its shoulder at a battlefield behind it
Image from Youth Voices

Title: War Horse

Author: Michael Morpurgo

Genre: Historical

Back Cover:

Joey has lived his life as a farm horse, cared for by the loving Albert. But when Albert’s father, who never really liked Joey anyway, needs money, he sells Joey to the army fighting World War I. Ripped away from everything he knew, Joey finds himself holding various positions as a war horse. Will he ever see Albert again?

Review:

I’d seen the movie War Horse, and it was okay. But I had no intention of reading the book until it was a book club pick. Then I decided, what the heck. It couldn’t be as bad as some of the book club’s selections – after all, the movie wasn’t bad.

Joey was…well, he was a horse. It’s hard to discuss a horse main character. He had little emotion, and no thinking besides what was required to tell the story.

The main concept of the book is a horse’s perspective on a series of owners in the midst of World War I. Joey was trying to survive the war – I was going to say to find Albert again, but he was such a laid-back horse, he didn’t even try to do anything. He just obeyed and did what was asked of him.

The movie was almost exactly like the book. Only, in my opinion, it was better – it was shorter, and the battle scenes lent themselves well to the screen. I think watching the movie first decreased my enjoyment of the book, since they were so close, I already knew the plot.

War Horse wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good, either, but it wasn’t bad. Overall, not my favorite, but there have been worse book club picks.

Historical

Review: The Hessian

Cover of "The Hessian," featuring a blue-and-black sketch image that is hard to decipher
Image from the LDL

Title: The Hessian

Author: Howard Fast

Genre: Historical

Back Cover:

When a troop of Hessians hangs half-wit Saul Clamberham, everyone living on the Ridge panicked. They call out the militia and ambush the Hessians, killing all but the drummer boy, who escapes. The ruthless and unrelenting hunt for the boy is on, but doctor Evan Feversham isn’t sure he wants to be involved. And when a Quaker family calls on him to take a bullet out of a Hessian’s back, he begins to doubt that the boy is really a threat. But if the terrified villagers get their hands on him, the fact that he’s sixteen and wasn’t a part of the hanging won’t matter…

Review:

I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own. I don’t usually like historical novels, and this one didn’t seem to have much of a plot. But it was a book club book, and so I read it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it.

Evan Feversham, the narrator, was a wimp. He didn’t do much, rarely made a decision (to paraphrase his own words, “most decisions are best left to God”), and generally went along with whatever people wanted him to do. When it came to the Hessian, there are at least three scenes where he just laments to his wife about not knowing what to do. And he ends up doing nothing. At all.

Other than him, there’s a handful of characters that move in and out of the story – members of the Quaker family, so many of them that I can’t seem to keep track of them, even now; Abraham Hunt, the hotheaded jerk who led the hunt for the Hessian, the Hessian himself, who is semi-unconscious for two of the four scenes he’s in.

I was right in my judgment about the plot, too – there wasn’t much of one. Most of it was Evan Feversham trying to decide if he should turn the Hessian in or not. Maybe the main plot was his emotional journey? Either way, I was not interested.

This story is set in the Revolutionary War era (I believe just before, but I can’t be sure), and it reads like it was written back then – and not in a good way. It was dense and stodgy with a very old tone that reminds me of the kind of classic nobody reads.

Overall, this was seriously not my thing. Characters, plot, writing style…I wasn’t a fan of any of them. This is one of those books that you won’t miss anything if you decide to skip it.

Classic

Review: A Journey to the Center of the Earth

Cover of "A Journey to the Center of the Earth," featuring a small golden image of several people on a raft on a brown background
Image from Jules Verne Books

Title:  A Journey to the Center of the Earth

Author:  Jules Verne

Genre:  Classic

Back Cover:

Harry is perfectly happy living with his eccentric uncle, Professor Hardwigg, and loving the beautiful Gretchen.  But then Professor Hardwigg discovers an ancient Runic manuscript telling how to reach the center of the Earth.  The last thing Harry wants to do is go off on some wild goose chase following the advice of a mysterious cryptograph.  But his uncle insists.  And so begins their strange and wondrous journey…

Review:

Journey to the Center of the Earth was my favorite book when I first discovered it at age ten, but I hadn’t read it in years.  So when it was a book club pick, I looked forward to the reread.

The book was definitely written in a the style common to most classic books – huge words, references to obscure works, not much by way of characterization.  But honestly, I didn’t mind.

Since I read this as an ebook, I didn’t have worry about breaking out the dictionary every other paragraph (although I did press the dictionary button occasionally).  The obscure works weren’t as easy to look up, but I mostly just glossed over those, and it didn’t detract from the story hardly at all.

The characterization, like I said, was minimal.  Professor Hardwigg was the kind of guy who wouldn’t give up an idea once he’d had it.  Harry was the more logical, reasonable kind, but he also had no sense of adventure and no desire to do anything other than what he was accustomed to.  And Hans, their Icelandic guide … I think I can count the number of words he said on both hands.

I did enjoy the journey, though.  This is one of those books where the classic books’ excessive description was a good thing.  They were traveling through new and unknown territory, and the description let me see everything.  Even the rock tunnels were somehow made interesting (although that could be because of their tendency to get lost in them).

The absolute best part of the story was the middle, though, with the underground lake/ocean.  Between prehistoric creatures, monster battles, and huge storms, the sea voyage turned out to be fascinating.  And the plants and other things they found on the shore were even more so.

The beginning was a little slow, and the end seemed a tad anticlimactic, but overall, I enjoyed the story.  Not as much as I did when I first read it, mind you, but it was definitely worth the reread.