Review of Dragon Teeth

Once again author Michael Crichton weaves a tale that blends fiction and historical facts to make a fascinating story. (Sadly, Crichton passed away in 2008-truly one of modern greats.) The novel centers around a Yale student of wealth and privilege, William Johnson, who decides to go West on a bet with another student. The venture West to the Dakota and Montana Territories of 1876 is fraught with danger and led by Othniel C. Marsh, a professor of paleontology.

The search is for dinosaur bones hidden within the vast amount of rock.

Fairly quickly Johnson is abandoned in Cheyenne, Wyoming by Marsh due to unfounded suspicions that he is a spy for another professor of paleontology, one Edward Drinker Cope.

In reality and within the story, these two professors had quite the rivalry and enmity between them.

Fortunately for Johnson, he finds himself recruited by Cope and aids him on his excavations.

Johnson’s story is a vehicle to tell of the incredible finds by Cope in the wild and dangerous Badlands of Montana. Not to spoil it for you, suffice it to say Johnson does return East, a changed man. 5 stars.

Review of The Dante Club

This is a fantastic novel by Matthew Pearl. It offers the reader an interesting and captivating mystery that must be solved by the members of the Dante Club (a real group)–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields. These real historical figures are perfectly positioned to solve a series of murders around Cambridge, MA. because all assist Longfellow on his translation of Dante’s masterpiece into English. The macabre crimes replicate scenes from Dant’s Inferno, which leave the Boston police baffled.

The author makes the inclusion of these real men, all primarily professors or related to literature, come alive with well-researched historical facts, settings, and dialogue of the Civil War era. Any reader that enjoys a riveting mystery, whether knowledgeable about Dante’s works or not, will delight in this wonderful story. 5 stars.

Review of The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral

Readers of history with an interest in factual mysteries will truly enjoy this non-fiction book by Louis Charpentier. I have waited to read this book for a long time.

It took a long time to finish because it is detailed with important information about the famous cathedral and because of delays from my work schedule.

Gothic cathedrals have long been a fascination of mine, so to finally read this book was an utter thrill. Even though published in the 1960’s, the author presents critical information about Chartres that many historical presentations overlook.

Furthermore, Charpentier offers some answers to the mysteries of the cathedral and Gothic architecture in general. However, some mysteries remain unanswered, such as where did the technological knowledge come from in order to build these magnificent structures? Who provided the funding? Why did it take decades to build? (The Forbidden City in China, another marvel of construction, took a mere four years.)

If you are curious, then by all means read this book. Overall, it is fantastic and enlightening.

Review of The Club Dumas

Literary and mystery readers will probably enjoy this novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I have enjoyed several other novels by this author. This one is steeped in the works of Alexandre Dumas, especially the characters of The Three Musketeers.
For me, I found times where the narrative thrilled me and others not so much. The former usually came from the story of the subplot relating to the Book of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows. That storyline is the basis for the movie version of this novel, The Ninth Gate, starring Johnny Depp.
The story is far too complicated to explain (sorry). If anything I’ve written here has piqued your interest, then take the plunge and begin reading.
Overall, an intriguing read.
Now onto another Club–The Dante Club.

Review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

SciFi fans and devotees of the movie Blade Runner will be interested in this unique novel by Philip K. Dick. I had been wanting to read this novel for many years, but finding a reasonably priced copy proved difficult. As a fan of Blade Runner I wanted to experience the original source material for the movie–this novel.

Quite a surprise.

The story finds Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter for the San Francisco Police Dept., living in a post-apocalyptic Earth after World War Terminal. Most everyone of means and ability have departed the forsaken Earth for colonies elsewhere in the solar system.

A group of eight rebel androids have escaped one of the colonies and have come to Earth illegally. Rick’s job is to hunt them down and kill (retire) them. Actually, a superior bounty hunter within the department had been assigned the task, but was horribly wounded by the third android he’d tracked down. Thus, the job falls to Deckard.

The key delineation between humans and the current sophisticated Nexus-6 androids lies in the body’s unconscious responses of empathy, which are elicited through a battery of questions-the Voight-Kampff test.

Deckard must first go to Rosen Associates, the maker of the androids, and make certain the Voight-Kampff test will work on the Nexus-6. At company headquarters he meets Rachael Rosen, the supposed niece of the founder, and Deckard shows that she is an android, much to the discomfort of Rachael and the elder Rosen.

Then, the hunt begins.

Empathy, especially for animals, plays a strong underlying theme within the story, which is much more philosophical, and perhaps spiritual, than Blade Runner. Also, in the novel, it is Deckard, not Roy Baty (android leader), who undergoes a significant transformation in his character.

There are many more differences between the movie and the novel, some nuanced, others quite huge.

Not wanting to provide any spoilers, I must admit that I was baffled by the ending chapters. I guess I’m not smart enough to comprehend what Mr. Dick was trying to convey.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. 4 Stars.