Monday, October 20, 2008

Not Fantasy Island

Once again, my wonderful wife, Debi, recommended a winning book. She knew I would like The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells and indeed I did. I read this one for The Decades Challenge (1890s) as well as for R.I.P. Challenge.

A man is lost at sea in a lifeboat and "lucky" for him he is picked up by a ship. He can't help but notice that one of the men on the ship is strange. He has a beastly snout and ears. But, once they arrive at the Island, he soon realizes that there are many beast-men roaming free on the Island. And to compound the tension, there are horrible screams coming from Dr. Moreau's lab at all hours of night and day. Well, it turns out that Moreau has the lab skills necessary to turn animals into men-like creatures. The men-like creatures are not supposed to eat meat, but some of the island's rabbits have been turning up half eaten. The tension builds and before long, the man finds himself alone with the beast-men, who are becoming more beastly by the day. If Something Wicked This Way Comes was creepy, this book was really creepy. But excellent.

As if this story wasn't fascinating enough, the author's writing was absolutely captivating. The writing was amazingly elegant. This book is over 100 years old, and older books can sometimes be a real bummer to read sometimes (e.g., Dickens' Great Expectations...I anxiously await the wrath of the Dickens crowd). Not this book, however. I can't wait to read more Wells, especially War of the Worlds. This was an extremely interesting story that was written in amazingly engaging and elegant prose.

Something wicked

I had a tough time picking books for the RIP Challenge, but my lovely wife, Debi, recommended Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I've never read any Bradbury before, so I gave this one a shot. It does have a very catchy title, I thought. And it is a very interesting and creepy book. A carnival rolls into town in the wee hours of the morning and two teenage boys have to check it out. They see some very strange things involving, among other things, the time space continuum and a shrunken salesman, and get the carnies angry. These are carnies you don't want to be angry with you. They engage the boys in a cat and mouse game for a while. Ultimately, the Rooseveltian concept that there is nothing to fear but fear itself wins the day and puts the carnies in their place. Ray Bradbury has a very distinctive style of writing that definitely helps keep up the creepy tone of the book. I'm very glad I read this one, especially at this time of year.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thoughts on Stalking the Plumed Serpent

This is another one I read for the What an Animal Challenge. I didn't PLAN to read this one for this challenge, but I found out about this book, which is new, and I couldn't resist furthering my snake theme that I have going. This book is a series of "adventures in herpetology" that are mainly about snakes by D. Bruce Means, who is a herpetologist at Florida State. He travels around the world in pursuit of interesting species of snakes. His stated goal in this book is to make more people appreciate snakes and other "creepy crawlies". Like many herpetologists, he things warm and fuzzy mammals get most of the conservation efforts, and, of course, he is correct. I think that he will mostly be preaching to the choir, as this book will probably be read by people like me who already love creepy crawlies, snakes, sharks, worms, bugs, and other things that make many people scream. But if he succeeds and converts a few people, then it will be well worth the effort. I enjoyed this book, which could've used a few more pictures of the creatures he was "hunting". It did have 10 pages or so of pictures, but it is hard to get an idea of the beauty of a rare snake without seeing it. Sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words as they say. One part of this book stood out to me. The author hiked a several hundred mile "trail" that John Muir hiked in the early 1800s. It was now nothing but highways and strip malls and the author was almost run over several times. It does speak volumes about the progress of mankind and how we treat our world. We are paving and building all animals into oblivion. And we are animals, too.