Book Review: The Science of Jurassic World: The Dinosaur Facts Behind the Films by Mark Brake and Jon Chase

Cover of the book The Science of Jurassic World: The Dinosaur Facts Behind the Films by Mark Brake and Jon Chase
The Science of Jurassic World: The Dinosaur Facts Behind the Films
by Mark Brake and Jon Chase
Skyhorse, 2021

This review was first published by Booklist on May 15, 2021.

The original Jurassic Park movie attempted to be as scientifically plausible as possible; subsequent entries in the franchise have been less so. But just how accurate is the science behind the series? Brake uses the films as a framework to explore the current state of what we know about dinosaurs, as well as what we don’t. This is a broad overview, covering everything from the Bone Wars to the latest discoveries. He explores how dinosaurs evolved and spread across the earth, what they were like, how they behaved, how they went extinct, and how new evidence is continually reshaping our understanding. He even considers what dinosaurs can teach us about our current world and the challenges we face today. Brake’s stated goal is to create a dinosaur book for adults that’s as engaging as books on the subject for children. He mostly succeeds, although some of the connections to the movie franchise feel a bit forced. It’s a good introduction and overview of the field and our current understanding of dinosaurs. Recommended for any library collection.

This title has been recommended for young adult readers:

YA/S – special interest: An excellent selection for teens interested in paleontology.

Book Review: Titan Song by Dan Stout

Cover of the book Titan Song by Dan Stout
Titan Song
by Dan Stout
DAW, 2021

This review was first published by Booklist on May 14, 2021.

Titanshade is wracked by a series of brutal murders, but the weird thing is, the perpetrators all confess and claim they were overtaken by inexplicable rage. The Barekusu, eldest of the Eight Families and originators of the Path, are in town for mysterious reasons. The biggest disco star on the planet is headlining a music festival out on the ice plains, financed by someone who has a grudge against Carter, whose mysterious new manna abilities continue to complicate things and whose personal life is still a mess. When a sinkhole in the middle of town unearths old mysteries, it leads down into the heat vents, where a shocking and dangerous truth lies at the heart of the city. Stout (Titan’s Day, 2020) continues to expand his world of the Carter Archives in fascinating directions, this time teasing a deep and unexpected history, hinting that not all is as it seems, leaving readers eager to know more. The conflict is less personal in this entry and the tone is more cerebral, but there’s still plenty of action and snark to satisfy fans.

Book Review: Forged in War: How a Century of War Created Today’s Information Society by R. David Lankes

Cover of the book Forged in War: How a Century of War Created Today’s Information Society by R. David Lankes
Forged in War: How a Century of War Created Today’s Information Society
by R. David Lankes
Rowman & Littlefield, 2021

This review was first published by Booklist on May 1, 2021.

Modern knowledge infrastructure is a fractured complex of filter bubbles, tracking our every move across platforms, websites, and apps, gathering our personal data to sell to the highest bidders. To understand how this came to be, Lankes studied the origins of knowledge systems from the time of the world wars through the twentieth century. Most of our communication systems and technology were designed to be weaponized in response to wartime threats. Propaganda, manipulation, and ubiquitous surveillance are built in as data analysis is optimized for the cold calculations of war. These tools weren’t intended for commerce or entertainment, and certainly not to protect the privacy of users. But these are precisely the features businesses and designers use to capture attention and increase profits. Lankes argues for more humanist values to redesign our knowledge infrastructure: policies and systems that prioritize privacy and give users control of personal data, intellectual property rights that better serve the common good, and nuanced data analysis instead of algorithmic dataism. Lankes’ historical perspective is compelling and his arguments convincing.

Book Review: Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World’s Most Successful Insects by Jonathan Balcombe

Cover of the book Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects by Jonathan Balcombe
Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World’s Most Successful Insects
by Jonathan Balcombe
Penguin, 2021

This review was first published by Booklist on May 1, 2021.

Flies, two-winged flying insects that include everything from houseflies to mosquitoes to midges, are some of the least studied insects on the planet, which is surprising given that they’re among the most populous and varied. But associations with filth and blight, biting and pestilence, and crop destruction don’t make them very appealing. Balcombe wants to change that. Flies are fascinating, vital, and beautiful creatures. Flies are essential to the food chain, among the most common plant pollinators, and clean up rot and decay. They help solve crimes and heal wounds, and even unlock the possibility of insect sentience. Most famous for helping scientists study genetic inheritance via fruit flies, Diptera, it turns out, have far more to teach us. Balcombe also warns of the potential catastrophic effects of human actions on fly populations. Monoculture and pesticides are greatly reducing their numbers, but without flies, ecosystems will collapse. They may be pests, but flies deserve our respect and admiration. This is an excellent overview of what we know and what we’re discovering about flies.