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Ceridwen

Ceridwen

You kids get off my lawn. 

Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time - James Gurney I didn't know it at the time, but pretty much I had kids so I could go through the dinosaur phase with them. Again. I love dinosaurs. We have a membership at the local science museum mostly so that I can go and stare at the bones and imagine their munching grandeur. I mean, yeah, the kids like the games and stuff, and who doesn't like a miniature tornado, but it's the dinosaurs that get me all worked up. Standing under the massive bones of a dipodocus, considering the weight of flesh and the improbable heft of their being, herds of them roaming the lost plains by the inland sea, good god. It's so awesome, in the original sense of the word.

But the other amazing thing about dinosaurs is how they continue to be imagined and reimagined by artists and dreamers, as the facts come in and are reinterpreted. History is a lost continent, and paleohistory so much more lost and such a different continent that the spaces for our imagination to blossom are so much greater. The first dinosaur understood as such was discovered by a beach-combing Victorian girl, an Ichthyosaur. (Though, technically, this is not a dinosaur, but a member of the aquatic version. ) Victorians threw dinners in the bellies of imagined beasts, laying the iguanodon on its belly and mistaking its sharp thumbs for horns. We play in dinosaurs. We get it wrong but that is not the point.

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Anyway, this sweet little book completely hits all my dino-buzzers. It's got one of those horror-story glosses on it, where the editor claims to have found a journal in the British Museum or something. The journal is a Victorian naturalist's musings after his shipwreck with his son on a lost continent called Dinotopia. It's like King Kong or Robinson Crusoe without the racism. The boy and his son meet up with the denizens of Dinotopia, picaresqueing their way through various locales and peoples. The plot is pretty light, just people finding their ways through an unknown world, though there is a little light romance if you're into that sort of thing. Dinotopia is a place where dinosaurs and people live in mostly harmony and arggghhghhgh, I so want to shipwreck there.

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The art makes this book. There's so much nerding to be had here: quick portraits of people, details of the stages of development in eggs, pages of detailed paintings of flowers and lost cycads. (And, seriously, the animals of the Jurassic may have been cool, but a real dino-nerd can flip out for days about how the ginkgo is the only living member of its class. There are evergreens, and deciduous plants, and then there is the ginkgo. It is alone in the world. Sob.) There's sort of a steampunky element to the book: catalogs of harnesses for riding dinos, the Victorian protagonist's wonder at the blank edges of the map, at the filling them in. Arooo!

So, a word of warning, whatever the heck you do, DO NOT rent the miniseries of the same name. I bought it stupidly, in the Last Days of Borders sale, and it ticked me off no end. They take this sweet, non-plot-driven, lazy little tale of wonder and turn it into frakking sullen sibling rivalry from Hades. (I'm trying hard to hew to my not-cussing-in-reviews-of-books-that-don't-have-cussing rule, and it is very difficult.) They misuse David Thewlis, they commit crimes against how understated this book is. Gah. I hates it, my precious. I guess there is even a series, and the very idea of that makes me quail. Sometimes tv is depressing.

So, get this, fellow dino-nerds, and marvel. It's such a wonderful place.