Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month, November 2016

DJ16

Dragons & Jetpacks is a science fiction and fantasy bookgroup, based on Goodreads. The group is open to all, all that is required is a Goodreads account. We read two books a month, one fantasy and one sci-fi – the second week of each month is when members make suggestions, and the third is used for voting. We’re always happy to meet fellow fans of the genres, so you’re more than welcome to join the group!

DJ_SF
Armada

Goodreads

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe. And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little… familiar?

DJ_F
Invisible Library

Goodreads

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

And for Sci-Fi Month, we have a special extra SF pick:

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Goodreads

A billionaire has created a technique to clone dinosaurs. From the DNA that his crack team of scientists extract, he is able to grow the dinosaurs in his laboratories and lock them away on an island behind electric fences, creating a sort of theme park. He asks a group of scientists from several different fields to come and view the park, but something goes terribly wrong when a worker on the island turns traitor and shuts down the power.

Have you read either of this month’s picks? What did you think?

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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Dinosaurs in Science Fiction

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

It’s something that has cropped up again and again in science fiction, and will probably appear even more so with the revival of a certain Jurassic franchise. Dinosaurs have appeared many times in science fiction, through various formats. Here’s a look at the impact they have made on the genre.

The Jurassic Park/Jurassic World series

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton Jurassic World

The Jurassic Park/Jurassic World series is, ultimately, a tale of man playing god. In the original novel by Michael Crichton, scientists have discovered how to recreate dinosaurs, using DNA extracted from mosquitoes trapped in tree sap. One ingenious businessman by the name of John Hammond decides to open a ‘theme park’ where visitors can, for a rather extortionate fee, see real life dinosaurs in the flesh. However, before it can open it must be approved by several professionals, which is where paleontologist Alan Grant and paleobotanist Ellie Sadler come in. Taken to the island, along with chaotician Ian Malcolm, they soon realise that this business venture is not one they can really approve…

Jurassic Park was adapted into a film in 1993, and was followed by two sequels: Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Jurassic Park III. Jurassic World is the beginning of a new part of the franchise, and is not directly based on Crichton’s work, apart from the basic ideas of the first novel. It is set twenty-two years after the first film, and the park has been running successfully for ten years. In order to prevent business going stale and people losing interest in dinosaurs, the Jurassic World team have decided to create their very own dinosaur, a hybrid of various different types. And as you’ve probably guessed… well, considering past events, probably not a good idea.

I absolutely LOVE the Jurassic Park/World series. So maybe the second and third films aren’t amazing, but they’re still a part of it. Jurassic Park has been one of my favourite films for a long, long time, and Jurassic World is definitely getting there. They are thrilling and sometimes silly, but I wouldn’t change a thing about them. I still get chills when the camera zooms in on the cup of water at the front of the Jeep, rippling in response to the T-rex’s heavy footsteps.

Terra Nova

Terra Nova

Just like Firefly, Terra Nova is another television series that was cancelled far too early… At only one season long, it packs in so much more than many series do in ten seasons. Set in the 22nd century, it shows a future where overpopulation and declining air quality have caused problems. In answer to this, an operation has been set up to send people back 85 million years, after the discovery of a time rift. Sent in groups called ‘pilgrimages’, the ‘pilgrims’ set up a colony know as Terra Nova, or New Earth. The series follows the Shannon family, a policeman, his doctor wife and their three children. However, it doesn’t just focus on the Shannons, but weaves in the stories of others in the colony.

Whilst you don’t necessarily see dinosaurs in every episode, they do appear quite frequently, often adding a sense of fear or adventure. Some are recognisable, others were made up for the show. Unfortunately, Terra Nova was cancelled after the first series, and although Fox tried to sell it to another network, nothing happened. This means that the finale leaves a LOT of unanswered questions and possibilities for where the show could have gone.

ARK: Survival Evolved

ARK: Survival Evolved

I NEED THIS GAME. ARK: Survival Evolved is a fairly recent video game, where the player finds themself stranded, naked and alone, on an island. You must explore, gather resources, and stay alive. One slight problem though: the island is full of dinosaurs. An open-world sandbox game, Ark: Survival Evolved allows you to tame and ride, or kill dinosaurs, team up with other players or work on your own, and try to find the best way to survive.

Er… do I really need to explain why I want this game? You can ride a pterodactyl. Or command your own velociraptor team just like Owen. Why would you not want it?! If you need further convincing, just take a look at the trailer:

It would take forever to discuss all books/films/television series/video games that feature dinosaurs, so I’ve just picked a selection! Do you have any particular favourites, whether they’ve made this list or not?

Museum of Literary Wonders

Museum of Literary Wonders #4

Museum of Literary Wonders

Hello, and welcome back to the Museum of Literary Wonders! Are you ready for another part of the tour? Perhaps some of you have just joined us for the first time today, in that case let me explain. I am Rinn, the curator and your tour guide for today. The museum holds many wonderful objects from many different worlds and universes, preserved in this museum because of their importance – perhaps they hold a lot of meaning, perhaps they’re important plot points or maybe just because they’re pretty… For whatever reason, they have been carefully stored in the museum collection so that generation after generation can learn about them. Without further ado, let us go on!

Sabriel


museum_bells

The name of these Necromancer’s Bells is deceiving, as they were also used by the Abhorsen in the Old Kingdom, both to bind and raise the dead. Made of silver with mahogany handles, they are infused with both Charter and Free Magic, and as a result are very dangerous. A full set has seven bells, the names of which are Ranna, Mosrael, Kibeth, Dyrim, Belgaer, Saraneth and Astarael. In the hands of the wrong person, they could cause utter chaos, hence the high security around this exhibit.

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Jeep


museum_jeep

Perhaps you remember reading in the newspaper about a new dinosaur ‘theme park’ with real live dinosaurs, and how it all went terribly wrong? People eaten by a tyrannosaurus rex, ripped to shreds by velociraptors? No? Well anyway, this is one of the jeeps from Jurassic Park – one of the few that wasn’t stomped on or ripped apart by a hungry king of the lizards. And don’t worry, it was carefully checked before it arrived here – no compsognathuses hiding away in the boot or anything…

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True Blood


museum_trueblood

Perhaps you recognise this bottle of True Blood. Perhaps it’s something you consume on a regular basis. It may be an every day object for some people, but it also marks a historical event: the creation of synthetic blood by Japanese scientists, which enabled vampires to come ‘out of the coffin’, and reveal their existence. The revelation that vampires were real changed a LOT – new rules and regulations, political and religious stances against and for vampires, many people turned against neighbours and friends. Whatever you may think about it, it was certainly a game changer.

Are there any questions about today’s tour? What exhibits would you like to see next?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #18: Primeval

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: Primeval.

Primeval

When strange anomalies in time start to appear all over England, Professor Cutter and his team have to help track down and capture all sorts of dangerous prehistoric creatures from Earth’s distant past.

BECAUSE DINOSAURS!!! DINOSAURS!!!

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton is one of my favourite books, and the 1993 film adaptation also happens to be one of my favourite films. The book is a whole lot more technical than the film, but in general it’s pretty faithful. It’s just such a clever and thrilling story, plus who doesn’t love the idea of a park filled with actual, real life dinosaurs? Unless perhaps you’re being chased by a T-rex or something…

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may be known for his Sherlock Holmes series of books, but they weren’t the only thing he wrote. Another of his series followed a character called Professor Challenger, and the first book, The Lost World, tells the story of a discovery of a remote area of the Amazon rainforest. The most astonishing part of the discovery however, is the fact that prehistoric creatures are living there.

Dinosaur Planet by Anne McCaffrey

Dinosaur Planet by Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey doesn’t just write about dragons. The creator of the well-loved Dragonriders of Pern series has also written about dinosaurs. Dinosaur Planet follows the crew of ARCT-10 as they head to Ireta (the titular dinosaur planet), in order to catalogue its flora and fauna. However, it doesn’t seem like the inhabitants of the planet are particularly welcoming…

Dinosaur Tales by Ray Bradbury

Dinosaur Tales by Ray Bradbury

Until I started researching books for this post, I had no idea that Ray Bradbury had written a book about dinosaurs. Dinosaur Tales gathers together a collection of short stories that Bradbury wrote on… well you guessed it, dinosaurs.

Are you a fan of Primeval? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: My Top Ten Science Fiction Novels

For my penultimate post I want to finally share with you my top ten science fiction novels! When writing this list I realised that I hadn’t read as many ‘classic’ sci-fi books as I’d thought, but *insert comment about too little time here* and I have plenty on my list to read! Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

And now, in no particular order, my top ten science fiction novels:

Six million years ago, at the dawn of the star-faring era, Abigail Gentian fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones, which she called shatterlings. But now, someone is eliminating the Gentian line. Campion and Purslane – two shatterlings who have fallen in love and shared forbidden experiences – must determine exactly who, or what, their enemy is, before they are wiped out of existence.

1. House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds – when I was reading this for the first time, I actually almost gave up on it. But then suddenly something just clicked and I couldn’t stop reading – and it ended up being one of my favourite books. Reynolds’ writing produces such vivid imagery, and I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – this is one highly original, utter whirlwind of a book. Packed with pop culture references that actually have meaning within the context of the story, it is perfect for gamers, 80s pop culture fans and geeks worldwide. You can read my review or five reasons why you should read this book if you want to know more.

On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

3. Hyperion by Dan Simmons – a sort of retelling of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, this space epic and the rest of the series (known as the Hyperion Cantos) is like nothing I’ve ever read. In the first book, each pilgrim tells their tale on the way to Hyperion and each tale is so varied and fantastical that you can’t help but fall in love with Simmons’ writing. My favourite story is that of the priest, Father Hoyt. I’m also really excited to read Dan Simmons’ other series, which is a retelling of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

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.

4. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton – you’ve most likely seen the film, but have you read the book? Written by Michael Crichton, this sci-fi thriller is brilliant fun and the film is actually fairly faithful – with the book you get more scientific depth. My only problem is the sequel: Crichton resurrects a deceased character because he was so popular in the film. Ugh.

In a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live even called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she see it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her survival is second nature.

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – this YA dystopian had me hooked from the very first chapter, and it seems to have done the same to many other readers. Now also a massive success on the big screen, with the second film having recently been released, it is a brilliant and terrifying view of a dystopian nation and corrupted government.

A final, apocalyptic, world war has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending the majority of mankind off-planet. Those who remain, venerate all remaining examples of life, and owning an animal of your own is both a symbol of status and a necessity. For those who can’t afford an authentic animal, companies build incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep… even humans.

6. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick – if you only read one science fiction classic, I urge you to read this one. Dick’s brilliant novel of a future where animals are almost extinct, and possessing one is a symbol of status, is quite different from the film adaptation, Blade Runner, but absolutely and definitely worth the read.

Once again, Earth is under attack. An alien species is poised for a front assault. The survival of humanity depends on a military genius who can defeat the aliens: but who?

Ender Wiggin. Brilliant. Ruthless. Cunning. A tactical and strategic master. And a child.

Recruited for military training by the world government, Ender’s childhood ends the moment he enters his new home: Battle School. Among the elite recruits Ender proves himself to be a genius among geniuses. In simulated war games he excels. But is the pressure and loneliness taking its toll on Ender? Simulations are one thing. How will Ender perform in real combat conditions? After all, Battle School is just a game… right?

7. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – I expect this will be a lot more widely read now there is a film version, but Scott Card’s tale of a space military school for youngsters has been around for a while. I’d been wanting to read this for ages when I spotted it at a local charity shop, and was not disappointed. It’s just a shame that the author has such disgusting views.

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

8. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – I didn’t realise this was a sci-fi novel when I started reading it, but it’s actually set on another planet and the people are settlers from Earth. This whole series is just an emotional rollercoaster, and due to Ness’ brilliant writing, had me blubbing like a baby at the very end.

The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common near London. At first, naive locals approach the cylinder armed just with a white flag – only to be quickly killed by an all-destroying heat-ray as terrifying tentacled invaders emerge. Soon the whole of human civilization is under threat, as powerful Martians build gigantic killing machines, destroy all in their path with black gas and burning rays, and feast on the warm blood of trapped, still-living human prey. The forces of the Earth, however, may prove harder to beat than they at first appear.

9. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells – the mother of all alien invasion novels, this book gives me the shivers. Written long before science fiction was the genre it is today, Wells’ account of a Martian invasion is terrifying, fabulous and oh so clever.

Em is locked in a bare, cold cell with no comforts. Finn is in the cell next door. The Doctor is keeping them there until they tell him what he wants to know. Trouble is, what he wants to know hasn’t happened yet.

Em and Finn have a shared past, but no future unless they can find a way out. The present is torture – being kept apart, overhearing each other’s anguish as the Doctor relentlessly seeks answers. There’s no way back from here, to what they used to be, the world they used to know. Then Em finds a note in her cell which changes everything. It’s from her future self and contains some simple but very clear instructions. Em must travel back in time to avert a tragedy that’s about to unfold. Worse, she has to pursue and kill the boy she loves to change the future.

10. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill – this recently released YA novel centered around time travel is a fantastic addition to the genre. It’s clever, fast-paced, well thought out and very, very emotional. I hope it also encourages people who don’t normally read science fiction to give the genre a try!

What are your favourite science fiction novels? Tell me in the comments!

Review

Review: The Lost World (Jurassic Park #2) by Michael Crichton

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Jurassic Park is one of my favourite books. As a child, the film both simultaneously fascinated and terrified me. I was one of those children who loved dinosaurs, and collected fossils on the beach. This interest in palaeontology led to an interest in history, which then led to an interest in archaeology. So I think I can say that I have Jurassic Park to thank for where I am today.

So I was so disappointed that I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. If you have read Jurassic Park, you will know that unlike in the film, Ian Malcolm actually died at the end. Hence why I was so confused as to how he was the main character in this one – apparently the press ‘wrongly reported’ his death. Funny how this book came out after the Jurassic Park film, huh? I just couldn’t shake a strange feeling that Crichton was cashing in on the success of the film throughout the entire time I was reading the book…

If you have seen the second Jurassic Park film, you will know it involves Ian Malcolm going back to the island, after reports that something wasn’t right. His daughter sneaks into one of the trailers – but in the book it is actually originally two young (middle-school?) students, along with the professor they help out and a few others. Despite the constant menace of the T-rex and raptors, the action just kind of felt flat – even though they were in great danger, I always felt like I was waiting for something really big to happen.

The writing is very typical of Michael Crichton – to the point, technical in places yet still accessible to the reader. I quite liked the majority of the characters – and of course with this sort of book, there’s got to be some you don’t like, so you’re waiting them to be snatched up by the T-rex or velociraptors, or some other horrible fate. And there are several rather arrogant or cocky characters in this just waiting for that to happen.

Overall – yes, I enjoyed the book (dinosaurs!). But somehow it almost felt unresolved, it felt almost like the middle part of a book, with the beginning and ending missing. Perhaps Crichton was betting on a third book, I don’t know. It just doesn’t have the excitement and wonder that the first Jurassic Park book had, and is nowhere near as tense – events somehow seemed much more predictable.