Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dino Island by Jim Lawson (1993)


October 1942. Pilot Amelia not-Earhart is attempting to break the record for fastest flight across the Atlantic Ocean when her P-51 Mustang takes an unexpected detour. After passing through a strange atmospheric anomaly, Amelia lands on an uncharted island inhabited by living dinosaurs. She quickly befriends a surprisingly docile Triceratops, encounters a small colony of other castaways, and finds a gigantic alien structure that may explain the island’s existence as well as provide a way home.

My thoughts

Dino Island is a two-issue comic book miniseries published to cash in on the interest in dinosaurs generated by the release of the first Jurassic Park film, which came out the same year. Writer and artist Jim Lawson is best known for his work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He is also something of a dinosaur nut, having self-published the wonderful dinosaur comic Paleo: Tales of the Late Cretaceous.

Dino Island isn’t as good as Paleo, in part because the dinosaurs take a back seat to a rather mediocre story about the origins of the island. Two issues were too short for the tale that Lawson wanted to tell. He introduces plot elements that go nowhere and there is no real logic in why anything happens over the course of the story – one moment doesn’t connect to the next. The series also concludes with a downer ending, which is surprising given its light-hearted subject matter.

The art is the bright spot. Lawson draws in a cartoony style that might put some people off, particularly when it comes to his human characters. That said, I found it rather pleasant to look at. I especially liked Lawson’s use vibrant colors, which was a nice change of pace from the black-and-white Paleo.

Dino Island ultimately is a comic that looks better than it reads. If Lawson had chosen a simpler plot and focused more on the dinosaurs, then I think he would have had a winner. Instead we’re left with a comic whose sole claim to fame is as a relic of the dinosaur craze that accompanied Jurassic Park.

  • The covers of the two issues form a single continuous image when laid side-by-side.
  • Lawson’s superior comic Paleo can now be read online for free.
  • None

Friday, January 23, 2015

New novel: Jurassic Park with dragons

If you're eagerly awaiting the next Jurassic Park movie and looking for something to sate your appetite for stories about theme parks with giant monsters, then you might want to give The Great Zoo of China a try.

The Great Zoo of China is the most recent novel by thriller writer Matthew Reilly. It is an unabashed clone of Jurassic Park, except the action is shifted to China and the monsters in question are dragons, not dinosaurs. However, these are not magical creatures, as Reilly provides a scientific explanation for the existence of the fire-breathing reptiles. (Turns out they are evolutionary cousins of the dinosaurs.) Reilly also says the novel is something of a homage to Jurassic Park, one of his favorite stories. Here's the cover blurb for the U.S. edition:
In the blockbuster and bestselling tradition of Jurassic Park comes the breakneck new adventure from the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author Matthew Reilly whose imaginative, cinematic thrillers “make you feel like a kid again; [they’re] a blast” (Booklist).

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have proven the existence of dragons—a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real, and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed.

A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong.

Of course it can’t…
The Great Zoo of China comes out Jan. 27 here in the U.S. (Correction: The book is now out in hardback. The ebook will be released Jan. 27.) It has been available since November overseas. The reviews I've seen are somewhat mixed, but that doesn't matter for me, as I'll swipe up any book that invokes Jurassic Park. You can learn more about the novel on the author's website or the publisher's site.

And speaking of Jurassic Park, a bit of news you may or may not have heard about: Pictures of the new genetically enhanced super-dinosaur from Jurassic World have leaked online. You can view them here. I'm not giving away too much by saying it's basically an albino Allosaurus.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Crowdfund "A Walk Through Dinosaurland"

Comic book artist Jim Lawson - best known for his work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - is raising money for a new project: A sort of evolutionary accurate take on Jurassic Park.

Lawson just launched a Kickstarter for A Walk Through Dinosaurland. The graphic novel follows the adventures of a young boy in an amusement park that allows visitors to witness the evolutionary development of dinosaurs in real time. He is accompanied by a not-quite-ninja turtle named John. Here's what Lawson has to say about the project:
With this new book, A Walk Through Dinosaurland, I wanted to return to one of my favorite subjects. Also, I wanted to address one of the things that I've noticed with many of the dinosaur books and reference that I use in my work. Pretty frequently I see that dinosaurs from the same family are shown together in the same scene, even though they may have existed several millions of years apart. Often it's difficult to get a sense of when these dinosaurs actually lived and what the evolutionary progression was that resulted in a Tyrannosaurus Rex, for example. One of my goals with this book is to try to present these creatures in a timeline, where the reader (along with the 2 characters in the book) witnesses this.
If Lawson's name rings any bells for fans of dinosaur comics, that's because he is the creator of the excellent comic Paleo: Tales of the Late Cretaceous. (The whole series is now online.) Lawson also penned the two-part Dino Island back in 1993, which I'm in the process of reviewing.

Pledging $5 will get you a PDF of A Walk Through Dinosaurland. $20 will get you a signed hard copy. Larger pledges will get you other rewards, such as a copy of Lawson's Paleo comics. Head over to Kickstarter to support this project.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cowboys, dinosaurs, mammoths, and Legos

I like cowboys. I like dinosaurs. So I was happy to hear that fellow blogger Eccentric Cowboy is working on a Weird West novella set in an alternate American West populated by prehistoric beasts. He has some cool cover art, and here is what he has to say about the upcoming book, titled Primal Frontier, on his blog:
Primal Frontier is a Weird West alternate history setting in the 1860's and 1870's on a massive continent that is populated by all sorts of exotic creatures from our past, the most prominent being dinosaurs. It is a primitive and savage land, bristling with dangerous animals and hostile natives. This land of mystery and peril has been only scarcely explored. But brave men and women will venture into the unknown and encounter all manner of adventures.

Magna Terra is a monster continent occupying the space that North and South America used to take up, and even with all of the dangers that are present, the allure of adventure or starting a new life brings all sorts of people from the lands of Europe and Asia to explore its depths.

Enterprising hunters glide through the woods for dangerous prey in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Prospectors probe the hills and mountains for precious gold and opals. Miners dig into the earth for iron and copper. Railroads begin snaking across the countryside with their puffing locomotives. Bounty hunters and lawmen try to find deadly criminals. Militia try to fend off hostile tribals who thirst for blood. Daring sailors and river boatmen brave the murky waters that are alive with fierce water beasts and pirates. There are criminals hoping to escape organized law in the scattered lands while governments vie for control and expansion.

This series will have everything from men fighting man-eating dinosaurs to train robberies, miners fighting off bandits to sea reptiles attacking pirates, natives riding domesticated dinosaurs to archeologists discovering lost civilizations. Folks, I've thrown everything but the kitchen sink into building up this world and I hope it will be as immersive as I find it to be.
Cowboys and dinosaurs are not as strange a combination as you may think. Some of the first major dinosaur discoveries were made in the "Wild West" by Gilded Age paleontologists O.C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope in a fossil rush now known as the "Bone Wars." Anyway, check out Eccentric Cowboy's blog for more details about his book.

Readers tired of dinosaurs who want something a little different can check out the self-published novel Mammoth Isle by Philip Linder. Here is the cover blurb:
For some it it the great race against many competing teams to bring the extinct ice age megafauna like the woolly mammoth, back from the dead; for others it is a race against time to stop them in their tracks. A group of scientists and students from St. Jude College intersects with all the factions on Mammoth Isle, somewhere north of Siberia. Their fates are inextricably entwined like strands of DNA. What is learned and experienced on Mammoth Isle during those few weeks in 2011 will forever change lives.
I haven't read the book so I can't comment on it, but it is nice to see some more recent prehistoric animals get some love from writers of paleofiction.

And for something that has absolutely nothing to do with paleofiction, here is a remake of the Jurassic World trailer using Legos. I just thought it was so well done I had to share it.