Four Letter Nerd

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4LN Book Review: Dragon Teeth, by Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton is a colossus in the entertainment industry.  He is the creative mind behind Jurassic Park, ER, Andromeda Strain, Congo, and Westworld.  During his life, Crichton dominated the box office, the literary world, and television.  Dragon Teeth is the latest in a series of posthumous novels discovered by his family to hit the shelves.

Summary from HarperCollins:

About the Book

Michael Crichton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Jurassic Park, returns to the world of paleontology in this recently discovered novela thrilling adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate Americas western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition. But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions. With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and Williams newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the Wests most notorious characters.

A page-turner that draws on both meticulously researched history and an exuberant imagination, Dragon Teeth is based on the rivalry between real-life paleontologists Cope and Marsh; in William Johnson readers will find an inspiring hero only Michael Crichton could have imagined. Perfectly paced and brilliantly plotted, this enormously winning adventure is destined to become another Crichton classic.

There is a particular formula a majority of Michael Crichton’s most popular books follow.  Take a team of scientists from diverse fields of study, insert a preternatural problem that serves as an antagonist – such as an alien spacecraft (Sphere), super-virus (Andromeda Strain), or genetically reconstructed dinosaurs (Jurassic Park) – and have the team of scientists work together to solve said problem.  Dragon Teeth smashes that mold.

While most of Crichton’s literary work would fall under the action/adventure genre, Dragon Teeth falls more in the realm of western/historical fiction.  The story takes place during the Bone Wars, which found two leading paleontologists – Cope and Marsh – in a bitter race to discover dinosaur bones.  Cope and Marsh, as well as Cope’s compatriot Charles Stern, all play significant roles in the story and actually existed (they have their own Wikipedia pages and everything). The Earp brothers also make their presence known in and around the town of Deadwood (bonus points if you read their parts with Kurt Russell and Bill Paxton’s voices).

While the historical characters are exciting, the true protagonist of Dragon Teeth is William Johnson; a fictional character that serves as a foil for the reader to learn more about the historical events unfolding. Born into affluence, Johnson has led a life of ease and excess. It’s not until he makes a spur of the moment bet and joins a paleontology exhibition headed west that he faces any real adversity, and boy does he face it. During the Wild West adventure, Johnson finds himself in the middle of both the Bone Wars and the Sioux Wars. Add to that the general cast of ruffians typical of western lore, and you got yourself a story more reminiscent of Louis L’Amour than Andromeda Strain.

It is important to note that this book isn’t technically a finished product. It was found in manuscript form, and a note from his wife indicates that he started planning it as far back from 1974. Some of the dialogue is stiff and the pacing is a bit jumpy, but I think this is a book fans of both Crichton and westerns will enjoy as long as they don’t expect something akin to his blockbuster titles.

For more like this, check out our Top Four Michael Crichton Novels

4LN Book Review: J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Beren and Lúthien”

Beren and Lúthien has been on a 100-year journey from conception to publication.  Like previous posthumous works of Tolkien, such as Children of Hurin, and The Silmarillion, Beren and Lúthien is edited by J. R. R. Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien from old notes and manuscripts that belonged to his father.  This book has been on my radar for a long, long time, and I am happy that it is now available.

Summary from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

‘The tale of Beren and Lúthien was, or became, an essential element in the evolution of The Silmarillion, the myths and legends of the First Age of the World conceived by J.R.R. Tolkien. Returning from France and the battle of the Somme at the end of 1916, he wrote the tale in the following year.

‘Essential to the story, and never changed, is the fate that shadowed the love of Beren and Lúthien: for Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was an immortal Elf. Her father, a great Elvish lord, in deep opposition to Beren, imposed on him an impossible task that he must perform before he might wed Lúthien. This is the kernel of the legend; and it leads to the supremely heroic attempt of Beren and Lúthien together to rob the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril.

In this book Christopher Tolkien has attempted to extract the story of Beren and Lúthien from the comprehensive work in which it was embedded; but that story was itself changing as it developed new associations within the larger history. To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father’s own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed. Presented together for the first time, they reveal aspects of the story, both in event and in narrative immediacy, that were afterwards lost.

Published on the tenth anniversary of the last Middle-earth book, the New York Times bestseller The Children of Húrin, this new volume will similarly include drawings and color plates by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win Academy Awards for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Like Túrin Turambar – the tragic hero of The Children of Húrin – before them, a version of Beren and Lúthien’s story appears in the first section of The Silmarillion.  What sets this book apart from other posthumous works edited by Christopher Tolkien, is that this book contains multiple tellings of the same story that offers a rare look inside the evolution of one of Tolkien’s first stories in his legendarium.  As noted in the summary above, Beren and Lúthien was conceived in 1917 shortly after Tolkien returned from WWI, and the central love story was so important to him that he had Lúthien inscribed on his beloved wife’s tombstone, and Beren inscribed on his own.

Beren and Lúthien opens with a truly fascinating preface from Christopher Tolkien in which he goes in-depth into the origins of the story, the evolution of the story, and why, at the ripe age of 93, he chose this to be his final work.  From here, Christopher provides some notes on the Elder Days, which is useful as a refresher for readers of The Silmarillion, and new readers alike.  I found these introductory pages captivating.  It’s not often you get such a comprehensive look into the mind of an author from someone who knew them as well as their own son.

The first chapter tells the first narrative version of the story which is called “The Tale of Tinúviel.”  In this early version Beren – who would eventually be re-imagined as human – is a Gnome, but not in the sense that gnomes are thought of now.  Tolkien’s use of the term “gnome” actually stems from the Greek and means “thought intelligence,” and is a race of Elves in this story.  In later versions he abandons this word as it was too misleading.

Next, each version of the story is given alongside an essay from Christopher Tolkien documenting the changes from one to the next.  The reader is also treated to the multitude of writing styles of J. R. R. Tolkien.  While the first version is told more-or-less as a narrative tale, later versions are in a complex poem-like prose that uses purposefully arcane language.

Ultimately, Beren and Lúthien is perfect for fans of J. R. R. Tolkien.  The book provides an interesting look into one of his most beloved creations, and the backstory provided by Christopher Tolkien is truly captivating. Fair warning, if you are a casual fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s, or have mainly stayed within the bounds of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, this book might be a bit on the dense side. Conversely, for those of us who’ve dug deep in the Tolkien mythos it’s a much easier read than The Silmarillion.  All-in-all, I found Beren and Lúthien to be the perfect farewell tome by Christopher Tolkien, who has provided Tolkien fans with myriads of unfinished stories about Middle-earth.

More Like This:

Wisdom from Tolkien’s Middle-earth

A Brief History of the First Age of Middle-Earth as Found in the Silmarillion and Other Writings

The Hobbit Life: How The Lord of the Rings Helped Me Become a Better Person

An Introduction to Comic Book Binding

It’s been a long while since we’ve provided you, our fellow nerds, with a primer.  The purpose of this series is to take an in-depth look at specific sub-genres of nerd culture, and today’s article does not stray from that premise.  Without further adieu, let’s take a look at art of comic book binding.

History

I’m going to ask you to bear with me over this next paragraph, because we are going to have a tiny history lesson.  Unlike some of our previous primers, bookbinding goes back a long way.  Remember hearing about Johann Gutenberg in history class?  Well, he is responsible for creating the movable type printing press, which allowed for faster printing.  Faster printing meant more books, and more books meant more focus on the art of bookbinding, which really took off in the late 15th century.  Also happening in the 15th century: the Aztec and Inca empires were at the height of their power. Fun fact: initially, books were shelved with the spines facing inwards, and the title inked onto the edge of the pages.  It wasn’t until Jean Grolier commissioned beautiful bindings with with lettering on the spine that they began to shelve them spines out, as is the custom now (stay tuned for my next primer on watching paint dry!).

Look, I know this might be boring for some of you, and possibly jarring since you are here to figure out if you want to get your DOOP collection professionally bound, but we really take book-bindings as they are now for granted. You’re right, though… it’s time to move onto the next portion of this primer.

Choosing a Bindery

Deciding whether to get your comic books professionally bound is a big decision.  I imagine a good sized portion of the comic community cringes at the thought of someone cutting the spine off a book and stitching it to a bunch of its comic book brethren.  Having said that, comic book binding is great for collectors like me that don’t intend to sell their books, want to keep them easily accessible, and don’t consider short boxes home decor.

I decided to give binding a shot because I have four short boxes filled with modern era Valiant Comics sitting in the back of my closet next to an expired fire extinguisher, assorted batteries, and our winter coats. A one-of-a-kind hardback book (that I helped design, no less) filled with some of my favorite comics was just too good to pass up.  After doing some research on the Google, I decided to go with Herring and Robinson Book Binders. Herring and Robinson is a family owned library bindery that began business in 1920. Before I decided to pull the trigger, I gave them a call to learn about the binding process.  They graciously answered all my questions during my initial phone call, and stayed in touch via email throughout.  Ultimately, it was their customer service that won me over.

Prepping Your Books for Binding

First and foremost, it’s important to decide which series or event you are binding.  For my first foray into binding, I chose my X-O Manowar collection, which included issues #1-50, two #0 issues, and two annuals.  Once you choose your books, it’s time to get them into the order you want.  While each volume could be up to 2 1/2″ thick, I decided to break my collection into two volumes so the gutter loss would not be as bad.  The first volume would include issues #1-25, and the second volume would include #26-50, with the #0’s and annuals put in according to when they were released.

Now comes the hard part… if you want to take away some of the thickness, or you find it more aesthetically pleasing, you can remove the ads throughout the comic as long as it doesn’t include any of the actual panels. While yes, you are technically cutting into a comic book which could be considered blasphemous, it’s for the greater good.  I decided to remove the last few pages of each book, because these usually contained previews for upcoming Valiant titles, which I didn’t need.  To do this, I simply grabbed my trusty Wrath of the Eternal Warrior box-cutter, and cut just to the right of the center line to avoid the staples.  Some binderies also prefer the buyer to remove the staples prior to sending, but Herring and Robinson don’t require this.  Once the pages are removed put the issues back in the correct order, place some comic boards on the top and bottom to protect the pages, and wrap them with a few rubber-bands.

I have included some photos of how I prepped my books below.  They are not for the faint of heart…

The Eternal Warrior always wins

 

Placing Your Order

Herring and Robinson provides a myriad of options for customizing your book.  You can have double lines, single lines, die-stamps, lettering, and choose the placement of everything. Then you have to choose the type and color of the binding, and the color of the lines and lettering, add a ribbon or headband, it’s… let’s just say you have a lot to think about .  I spent a lot of time figuring out exactly how I wanted the spine to look.  I eventually settled on double lines at the top and bottom, sans-serif lettering, the buckram material in royal blue with silver lettering.  Herring and Robinson provides the following order form, that has a diagram of the spine and front cover, so you can show them exactly how you want it to look by sketching it out.

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Now, pack the order form in with your books, make sure it’s well protected, and ship it off to Herring and Robinson.  The wait begins.

The Final Product

Their website says it will take 6-8 weeks for the order to be completed, but after only 4 weeks I received my invoice and tracking number.  I’m not going to lie, when I saw that my package was out for delivery and my mailman was running later than usual I stared out my window like Michael Scott stares at Toby.  The wait paid off when I pulled these beautiful books out of their package:

For a price tag of around $30 a book, I ended up with two beautiful, one-of-a-kind books that will look great on my nerd shelf.  The quality of these books is mind-boggling.  They are solidly constructed, and feel great to the touch.  But, is comic book binding for everyone? Probably not.  There are those that cringe at the thought of ravaging their comics with a razor blade.  Those of you, like me, who don’t plan on selling your collection, want to be able to display them proudly, and can make it through the prep, comic book binding is definitely worth it.  I am beyond happy with how my first foray into bound comics turned out, and I will definitely be sending more over the next few months.

Jules Verne: 19th Century Nostradamus

Even if you have never read anything by Jules Verne, you have almost certainly heard of his literary contributions.  Mr. Verne is the author behind such classics as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Around the World in Eighty Days. There have been multiple adaptations of his works across a multitude of mediums over the last century and a half. There is, however, one book you probably haven’t heard of because his publisher thought it too absurd to publish in the 1860’s, so it wasn’t published until 1994. The book is called Paris in the Twentieth Century, and it’s special because it predicted the future.

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Jules Verne is a prolific 19th-century French writer with more than 60 novels to his name, and is widely considered the “Father of Science-Fiction.” His most famous work is his Voyages Extroaordinaires, which collects 54 of his novels including the big three listed above. His works are also a huge influence on the world of Steampunk, as his novels are filled with fantastical elements grounded in Victorian era science.

Paris in the Twentieth Century was one of his earliest works, which he turned into his publisher in 1863 after his  successful first novel Five Weeks in a Balloon.  The publisher refused to publish the book because believed it to be too pessimistic, and too unbelievable.  It wasn’t until 1989 that the manuscript was discovered by Verne’s great-grandson, and then it was another 5 years until it was published.  What’s ironic about the publisher turning Paris in the Twentieth Century down for it being unbelievable is that it accurately predicted several facets of the modern world 100 years after it was written.

So, what did Mr. Verne predict?  First of all, in his version of the 1960’s, the cities would be illuminated by electric lights, which is fitting since Paris is called the City of Lights.  He predicted skyscrapers, the expansion of the suburbs, subways, high-speed railway systems, telegraphs that would transmit pictures i.e. fax machines (which are already horribly outdated), electric machines that are a part of an extensive network and communicate with each other (the internet).  Additionally, Verne spoke about the rise of electronic music (Skrillex), synthesizers (the 80’s), and a recorded music industry. He also predicted that cars, which he referred to as gas-cabs, would be a primary means of transportation, and even predicted the infrastructure required to sustain automobile’s, like gas stations and paved asphalt roads.  In this novel, the weapons of war have become so powerful that most countries won’t even fight anymore lest everybody gets destroyed, which sounds an awful lot like the Cold War and the arms race between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Oh, and he sort of predicted porn? In his book, he predicted that the entertainment industry would be dominated by stage plays featuring nudity and sexual acts, so there’s that.

That is a staggering amount of accuracy for a book written a decade before Dr. Arliss Loveless attacked President Grant with his giant mechanical spider.  While it is true that Verne didn’t see himself as a scientific prophet – or even a science-fiction author for that matter – it is fascinating how many of his visions for a dystopian, 1960’s Paris actually became a reality.

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Perhaps the most depressing part Verne’s future is that society has become obsessed with technology and business to the point where things like art, literature or human creativity, in general, are thrown by the wayside.  While our society is indeed engrossed with technology (see: pphubbing), human creativity still has its place, and with the advent of the internet, immediately available for consumption.

Ultimately, Verne’s version of the future is a bit bleaker than reality, but many of his predictions hit the metaphorical nail on the head.  Cars were hitting their stride in the 1960’s, and let’s be honest, if you combine the emergence of interconnected machines and lewd stage-plays, you have 85% percent of the world’s internet content.  What this all amounts to is that Jules Verne not only kick-started the science-fiction genre, he is also a a master of speculative fiction.

If you are interested in checking out Paris in the Twentieth Century for yourself, head on over to Amazon, or better yet, ask your local bookstore to order you a copy.  Fair warning – the story isn’t exactly uplifting.

For more information about Steampunk, check out our Primer!

 

The Top 5ish Quotes from “The Martian” by Andy Weir

Full disclosure, there are more than five quotes. You see, as I was working on this post I had a really hard time deciding which quotes to use, because The Martian is so good. So, instead of agonizing over which quotes to cut, I just included all of them. You’re welcome.

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If you haven’t read The Martian yet, you are missing out.  Do you have a favorite quote?

For more on The Martian check out our book and movie review!

The Martian book review

The Martian movie review

4LN Book Review – The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2) by Brittany Cavallaro

Recently I was trying to keep both of my children in sight while I perused the best place in the history of ever—Target—when my eyes landed on A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes novel #1). It had a cover that drew me in (I judge books by their cover), and it was an obvious play on the classic Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet . . . how was I supposed to pass it by?

Short answer: I didn’t.

I quickly grabbed the book (signed by the author!) and set out after my kids, who were trying to put every LEGO Batman set in existence into our cart. Less than a week after I picked up A Study in Charlotte, I had read and purchased the second book in the series, The Last of August.

Quick note: since this is a sequel to a book we haven’t reviewed, I will do my best to not spoil the first book while talking about the second.

Summary from HarperCollins:

In the second brilliant, action-packed book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are in a chase across Europe to untangle a web of shocking truths about the Holmes and Moriarty families.

Jamie and Charlotte are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved Uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers.

So begins a dangerous race through the gritty underground scene in Berlin and glittering art houses in Prague, where Holmes and Watson discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.

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The Charlotte Holmes series follows the great-great-grandchildren of the fabled Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. In this world, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was merely their publicist. While the Watson family lived relatively normal lives, the Holmes clan continued the legacy of Sherlock by training their children in the arts of deduction, baritsu, and a myriad of other Holmesian pursuits. The first book begins with the latest Watson (James) being sent to a boarding school in the United States, where he meets Charlotte Holmes. The tumultuous relationship gets tumultuous-ier (I know this is a made up word, but I am using it anyway) when the pair are framed for the murder of a fellow student. The Last of August begins shortly after the events of A Study in Charlotte and finds the pair in a European adventure that involves missing persons, art forgeries, and hipsters.

If you have been a patron of 4LN for a long, long time, you might know that I am a bit of an amateur “Sherlockian.” I’ve read a majority of the original stories, love both Elementary and Sherlock, and I’m currently working my way through the original short stories that I haven’t read using Audible (my wife is still mad I used this month’s credit).

What I am trying to say is this: I like Holmes/Watson stories regardless of the medium. I might be a little biased, but I really enjoyed the first two books in the Charlotte Holmes Novels series, and I am looking forward to the next book.

Brittany Cavallaro, the author of the series, manages to pay respect to Doyle’s work, while presenting a fresh take of the mythos. Instead of taking the original characters and placing them in present day (i.e. Sherlock and Elementary), Cavallaro presents two new characters that manage to be more than just stand-ins for the original characters. The stories are fast-paced, with just enough of the Holmesian “magic trick” revealed to the reader to string you along.

That being said, my favorite aspect of the series: the friendship between Charlotte and James. It’s endearing, if not a complete train wreck (it’s not their fault . . . they’re 16, somewhat famous, and she’s a genius with poor social skills and a vice or two). They genuinely care for each other, but there is a lot of stuff they have to work through in both books. The introduction of Holmes’ family (and the Moriarty’s) makes the second book even more of an emotional minefield for the the two to traverse.

Ultimately, the Charlotte Holmes series might not appeal to every Sherlock fan. It’s a young adult series with teenage protagonists and a smidge of sexual tension, which means it’s a bit different than the Holmes and Watson characters in other versions of the Sherlock stories. However, I think the younger half of Sherlockians will find it an entertaining read that pays homage to the source material. I give it 4 out of 5 “Three Pipe Problems.”

Wisdom from Tolkien’s Middle-earth

There are only a few books that I’ve read that I read more than once, but Tolkien is an author who’s work I cannot help but return to.  There is a lot of wisdom packed into those pages that consistently brings me back, and continues to shape my worldview.  Below I’ve collected several of my favorite quotes from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. 

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“All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others.”  – The Silmarillion

“But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.”  – The Lord of the Rings

Frodo: “… I wish none of this had happened.                                                       Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” – The Lord of the Rings

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“Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.” – The Lord of the Rings

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”  – The Lord of the Rings

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” – The Hobbit

“Where there’s life there’s hope.” – The Hobbit

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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – The Hobbit

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” – The Hobbit

“To him that is pitiless the deeds of pity are ever strange and beyond comprehension.” – The Silmarillion

“Who knows? Have patience. Go where you must go, and hope!” – The Lord of the Rings

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“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”  – The Lord of the Rings

“Elves and Dragons! I says to him. Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you.” – The Lord of the Rings

Frodo: “He deserves death.”
Gandalf: “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” – The Lord of the Rings

Do you have a favorite Tolkien quote? Let us know in the comments below.

4LN Top 4 – Michael Crichton Novels

You may or may not know who Michael Crichton is, but you are without a doubt familiar with his work.  Crichton dominated the early 90’s box office with films like Jurassic Park, Twister, and The Andromeda Strain, but he is also the man behind the original Westworld and ER.  In 1994, Crichton became the only person to land at the top spot on charts for television, film, and book sales.  Think about that for a second, the three most popular forms of entertainment all topped by the same guy at the same time.

Sidenote: I’m a pretty big fan of the Crichton novels I’ve read, but my wife is OBSESSED with the show ER. She is currently on her fifth or sixth viewing of the series, and there are fifteen seasons. Also, Twister is one of those movies that if it happens to be on TV, things get ignored – chores, kids, you name it.

Below you will find my Top 4 Michael Crichton novels along with a spoiler-free, mini synopsis.  Enjoy!

4. Timeline

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A tech firm led by a volatile, Bill Gatesian billionaire creates a time machine.  A professor in the employ of the firm is studying a 14th century French village with his team of grad students.  When he gets lost in 1357, it is up to his students to go back in time to rescue the beloved professor.  Oh, did I mention that 14th century France is violent?  This novel became a movie starring Paul Walker and Gerard Butler.

3. The Andromeda Strain

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The government launches satellites to collect organisms and dust for study.  One of the satellites crashes in a remote town, which leads to an outbreak of a deadly virus.  A team of scientists enter a secure, high tech bunker in order to contain the (1950’s announcer voice) VIRUS FROM OUTER SPACE.

This novel became a TV miniseries starring Benjamin Bratt.

2. Sphere

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A alien spaceship shaped like a (you guessed it) sphere appears at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  A team of scientists is dispatched to a secret, deep-sea research facility to study, and attempt to make contact with the spaceship.  Deadly shenanigans ensue.

This novel became the 1998 film starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel F. L. Jackson.

1. Jurassic Park

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Not only are dinosaurs no longer extinct, they are going to be on display in a brand new theme park named Jurassic Park.   A team of scientists  is invited to tour the park in order to make sure everything is on the up and up.  Chaos theory prevails.

This novel became the smash-hit blockbuster starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff erm Goldblum.

Honorable Mentions

Eaters of the Dead

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I am adding this to the list, not because I think it is in the upper echelon of Crichton’s novels, but because it’s fascinating.  Eaters of the Dead is a fictional retelling of actual journal entries written by an Arab traveling through Northern Europe in the tenth century.  During his journey, he meets a band of Viking warriors, and joins them as they suddenly return to Scandinavia and attempt to save the Viking clan from monsters in the mist.

This novel became the film The 13th Warrior starring Antonio Banderas.

There you have it, folks.  Have you read any of Crichton’s work?  What’s your favorite Crichtation (Crichton creation)? Let us know in the comments.

 

4LN Book Review – The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

It has only been a matter of minutes since I finished reading John Scalzi’s latest novel The Collapsing Empire, and holy cereal balls is it fantastic! So much so that I couldn’t even think of a way to express it than “holy cereal balls.”  I just wanted to say that before we get down to the nitty-(spoiler-free)-gritty of this review.

Side note: look up the etymology of the phrase “nitty-gritty.”

Summary from Macmillian Publishers:

Our universe is ruled by physics. Faster-than-light travel is impossible—until the discovery of the Flow, an extradimensional field available at certain points in space-time, which can take us to other planets around other stars.

Riding the Flow, humanity spreads to innumerable other worlds. Earth is forgotten. A new empire arises, the Interdependency, based on the doctrine that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war—and, for the empire’s rulers, a system of control.

The Flow is eternal—but it’s not static. Just as a river changes course, the Flow changes as well. In rare cases, entire worlds have been cut off from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that the entire Flow is moving, possibly separating all human worlds from one another forever, three individuals—a scientist, a starship captain, and the emperox of the Interdependency—must race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

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John Scalzi is by far one of the most accessible writers in science-fiction today.  Old Man’s War and Redshirts are both really great sci-fi reads, so I have been looking forward to this book for a while now.  If you couldn’t tell from my outburst above, I genuinely enjoyed this book, and I am already pining for the sequel.  He manages to take political intrigue, civil war, astrophysics, and religion, cram them together into a baseball, and knock it out of the literary park.

The scientist, starship captain, and emperox of the Interdependency mentioned in the summary are all enjoyable characters that I found to be relatable and well thought out.  And as far as the dialogue goes,  I’ve read books from the humor section that didn’t come close to making me laugh as much as this title (looking at you, Kiva Lagos).  However, throughout the book he still manages to craft in intriguing story full of levity and consequence.  The potential collapsing of the Interdependency (not a spoiler, it’s in the summary) could be an extinction level event, since, you know, all of the systems are dependent upon one another.

I can’t get into much more detail without beginning to divulge spoilery bits, but suffice it to say, The Collapsing Empire is a breath of fresh air that is a perfect mix of hard sci-fi, humor, and drama. This book is the Pringles of books I’ve read so far this year, in that once I popped the cover, I couldn’t stop.  If you or someone you love is in need of a great new book, make sure to pick up The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi’s, out March 21, 2017.

 

4LN Book Review – Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology has been at the top of my “books-I-can’t-wait-to-read” list since it was first announced.  If you’ve been reading 4LN for a while, you are probably familiar with my love of The Lord of the Rings and Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder, so a book that dives into the lore that inspired Tolkien and Stan Lee, plus the fact that it is written by the great Neil Gaiman is definitely a must read.

Here’s a summary of the book from the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company:

Introducing an instant classic—master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman—difficult with his beard and huge appetite—to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir—the most sagacious of gods—is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

 

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Norse Mythology is a fresh take on Norse myth pulled from various sources (mainly the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, which date back over 900 years), told using modern language.  Gaiman then takes these myths and forms a, more or less, cohesive journey from the beginning to end.  Throughout the different tales we learn what Odin sacrificed for wisdom, how Loki’s mischievousness led to the creation of Thor’s hammer Mjölnir by the Dwarves, and how the children of Loki play a major role in Ragnarok, which is both the end and the beginning of the gods.  Oh, and we also learn why Loki tied his genitals to the beard of an angry goat – a story that my fellow 4LN writer Bill is quite fond of, for whatever reason…

 

Since I am a fan of themes, I drank this wine while I read.

Since I am a fan of themes, I drank this wine while I read.

 

Overall, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is a well written, accessible story the gives the reader some insight into the epic tales of the Norseman. Before reading this book I had at least partial knowledge of several of the tales, mainly from Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series (which is outstanding), but reading several of the main stories in what is mostly a single narrative is a great way to not only learn about Norse myth, but enjoy a great book at the same time.  It’s an easy and informative read that is well worth the price of admission.  I grant Norse Mythology 5 out of 5 Golden Apples of Idunn.  Make sure to head to your local bookstore to pick it up when it hits shelves on February 7, 2017.