Posts Tagged ‘Book’

Man, how I wish I had this book two years ago when I was writing my senior thesis in college! I did my SI on the evolution of horror as a theatrical art form (a paper I have revised many times, and am now attempting to publish) and I devoted a whole section of the paper to Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.

This book was just released, and I knew right away that I needed to get my hands on a copy. I couldn’t resist a text solely dedicated to the history of HHN. Although I have only attended the event twice (this upcoming season I will actually be attending for my third time) I have been a fan of the event since around its thirteenth year. I’ve followed the event online, chat on the forums, watch countless videos, and am even working on my own short webseries based around this year’s event. I’ve known that the history of HHN has had a very interesting past, and that the amount of work that goes in to each event is overwhelming… but I wanted to know more. Thankfully Christopher Ripley and his new book gave me exactly that.

The book starts off describing Universal’s history with its monsters, as well as the original Horror Nights that originated in Hollywood years before Orlando took a stab at it. Horror Nights died, and when Universal Orlando opened it was met with many technical problems. So, in order to make money, the creative team at the park had to think of something. Enter Fright Nights (the first HNN before HHN was the title.) While I was aware of this history, the way that Ripley describes it so in depth and with rich facts and statements from newspapers and archives really adds so much more to the story. It also really hammers home the interesting parallel between how HHN really saved Universal Orlando much like the original classic horror films saved Universal Pictures.

Subsequently, with Fright Nights being as much of a success as it was it soon became a staple for Universal Orlando. The name was officially changed to Halloween Horror Nights for the second year, and has been that way ever since. The rest of the book outlines each year in its chapters. The chapters are broke down [basically] with some quick preproduction info for the year’s event, then production, and finally opening and closure of the event. There are obviously more layers to each one, such as many interesting facts about how marketing changed from year to year, as well as facts on various problems the creative team had to overcome. For instance, one of the main ones, is the well-known changes Universal made to its event post 9/11 in 2001. The book really describes in depth what was indented for that year and then goes on to describe what was changed and how the creative team went about doing this.

It’s also interesting to read about Universal’s evolution through the years and the subsequent effect it had on the event. You essentially relive the growth of Universal from the 90’s to now when reading this book and also get a great sense of how HHN grew during this time. It’s easy to see how the event had grown (I mean, for cripes sake, this year we have NINE houses!) but we overlook a lot of the internal workings and growth the company had to have gone through throughout the years to stay ahead of the curve. All of that is laid out in this book.

The book is actually quite fun to read. While it is a factual history book on the event, Ripley writes it very personable and I got a real sense that the he cares for the event just as much as I do. My only complaint is that I think the book maybe should have been proofed one more time before publishing, since there are noticeable typos and some odd sentence structure- but all in all it isn’t a huge hindrance. The text comes from the mind of someone who’s passionate for the event, and it reads that way. The information is golden and really insightful and that’s all that matters.

I also do also wish that there was some more focus on the HHN Hollywood event, as well as more of a satisfying closing chapter- but it’s just a me being greedy an wanting more. Hopefully in the coming years someone will write a separate book containing all of that (or… possible future revised editions?!)

This book is an absolute must have for HHN fanatics. It’s also a great read for anybody interested in haunted houses, theme parks (especially Universal) or just loves a good factual read on entertainment. It’s chock full of interesting information and facts you probably have never heard/read anywhere else. As someone who lives in Illinois and doesn’t get to visit each year and wasn’t even aware of the event pre-2003 (I was young, what can I say) the author does a brilliant job of taking the reader back to each event by painting eloquent pictures of Horror Nights past. Do yourself a favor and nab this book, especially since there is only 10 days left until HHN 25.

Halloween Horror Nights: The Unofficial Story and Guide (2015) is available in select stores, as well as on Amazon.

List price: $18.99

Eskdale & Kent Publishing

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Brian Switek and Julius Costonyi are some of the best people at what they do. Brian being a passionate writer of things dealing with the field of paleontology and Julius being an absolutely gifted artist. I’ve had the pleasure and honor of meeting both of these gentlemen over the years, as well as working with Brian in the field at the Burpee Museum‘s Utah dig site in 2014. When I found out earlier this year that they had collaborated together on a book I was ecstatic and knew right away that, children’s book or not, it would be something worth picking up. Finally, I was able to get my hands on a copy of Prehistoric Predators!

Now, judging from the cover one might assume that the book may only deal with predators of the Mesozoic- which is not the case at all. This book actually has five chapters: Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Cenozoic.

The book begins with a great introduction, explaining briefly the history of predatory animals on earth as well as giving us a nice  breakdown of the periods on the right hand side (and when dealing with the Cenozoic it even goes down to the Epochs, a pretty rare and welcomed addition for a children’s book!) All of the periods and epochs have year ranges associated with them so that when you read the rest of the text and, for example, you see that Linheraptor lived between 84 and 75 million years ago you can flip to this key and pin point the period that it would belong to.

This book highlights over 40 different predators, but there are far more animals included in this text (come on, you can’t have a book about predators without including their prey!) Each chapter opens up with a description of what is going on during this time in history- how the earth is changing, what new species are evolving, notable extinctions, etc.

The meat of the book are the species highlights. In general it is laid out like an average guide book to the various species. You get the name, followed by how you pronounce it, the age of the creature, a physical description, and ending with a little “Scientific Bite”- a kind of blurb or random bit of information about the creature. Accompanying the facts of the creatures there is also usually a paragraph describing the illustration on the page: what is happening, and what exactly you are seeing. They also include information on current knowledge about the species you are looking at.

While at first glance you may think that this book is set up like most other children’s dinosaur books, it isn’t. The small picture accompanying discretion tend to offer a lot of valuable information on current research and theories in the field of paleontology. Also another MAJOR inclusion is the fact that all of the highlighted animals have their species name! This is something that is hardly ever in children’s dinosaur books! When I was younger I would have given anything for a book to include the species names. It’s a great addition, and one I’m glad they put in. It’s one of the main things, for me, that really helps separate this book from others like it on the market. They unfortunately don’t include the scientific in the pronunciation part on each fact bubble, but that’s only a minor complaint.

Within each chapter there is a great range of animals from each time period. We obviously are going to get well known animals like Velocriaptor, Spinosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus rex (seriously, it’s pretty much sacrilegious to not include that trifecta now in nearly any dinosaur book.) But there is also a great array of animals not commonly presented. Animals like Eocarcharia, Masiakasaurus, and Guanlong get some really good pages in this book- among many others. Also, Therizinosaurus gets a page in this book- in a “predators” book! I think that’s so awesome. because it’s often not clumped together with theropods because the common thinking is that they are omnivores/mainly herbivores (it was completely skipped in my dinosaur class in college because of that reason.) I don’t know, maybe authors tend to think it’s hard to discribe a theropod that isn’t strickly a carnivore. Not Switek though.  He and Csotonyi present it like a pair of bosses and then continues on with the book. I love the fact that it’s included in this text.

While the information presented is absolutely fantastic, the artwork is the real selling point. Julius Csotonyi’s artwork jumps off the pages at you to give you goosebumps. He presents all of the prehistoric animals in this book with such life that sometimes you swear you’re looking at a photo. All at the same time he’s including current scientific theories about each of these animals as well as his own artistic spin. These images are so detailed that you could spend countless time looking at one of the landscapes and still be catching new details. The images are incredibly dynamic, and full of atmosphere and emotion. The Dimetrodon with a ripped sail. The Suchomimus fishing. The Giganotosaurus. The Deltadromeus. All of these are so rich in how they are presenting individual stories, it’s breathtaking. And good God I need a mural of that Jurassic storm scene with the Allosaurus and Stegosaurus. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

While there are no flaws at all in the artwork (or really in this book at all for that matter) I do think it’s interesting to note that on the introduction page we get a great image of a Tyrannosaurus rex. If you turn to page 63 in the book you can see that the same base image was used to make the Daspletosaurus. Not a critique at all, in fact it’s pretty common for this kind of thing to pop up in books. Artwork gets edited, and refined. Besides, T. rex and Daspletosaurus are related and look similar. It’s not like they took a rex and added a sail to it and called it Spinosaurus.

Overall Prehistoric Predators is an incredible book with some great information, and amazing artwork. It lacks a lot of the more graphic scenes you come to expect in a lot of predatory based dinosaur books (even for kids,) and the information is easy to read and comprehend- making it a great book for younger dinosaur enthusiasts. While older paleo-lovers may want a little more on the side of reading and facts, they are sure to be thrilled with what in-depth information is there, the inclusion of some lesser known prehistoric animals, as well as they very inspiring art work.

It’s a great book for ages young and old, and defiantly worth getting at first sight!

Prehistoric Predators is published by Applesauce Press and is available online and in book stores now, with a list price of $19.95.

With Jurassic World release right around the corner (only a little more than a month away!) I’m sure you’ve already begun to see the onslaught of JW gear arriving in local stores! Toys, food products, games, and even limited edition Barbasol Shaving Cream cans. On top of all of that you can expect there to be a plethora of books based on and inspired by Jurassic World. It’s only fitting since the franchise began as a book, right? While most of the books will probably tend to focus on the story of the film, there are some exceptions to that rule- one of which being the newly released Jurassic World: Dinosaur Field Guide.

Now this book is actually a revised/updated (as the cover suggests) reprinting of the Jurassic Park: Institute Dinosaur Field Guide, which was originally published in 2001 coinciding with the release of Jurassic Park 3. Jurassic Park: Institute was started as an endeavor to bring the latest scientific knowledge about dinosaurs via the Jurassic Park franchise. JPI included a incredibly interactive and informational website, an interactive tour in Japan, and several book publications- one of which being the original Dinosaur Field Guide.

The original Dinosaur Field Guide is an exquisite book, perfect for dinosaur enthusiasts of any age as well as Jurassic Park fans. It’s full of [at that point in time] up to date facts thanks to Dr. Thomas Holtz and Dr. Michael Brett-Surman, and exquisite artwork by Robert Waters. It also included a large poster listing various dinosaur species, and had special notes that contained behind the scenes facts of the Jurassic Park films.

But a lot changes in fourteen years in the field of paleontology and the writers and artist teamed up again to revise their book and released it again under the Jurassic World title (since Jurassic Park: Institute is no more sadly.) So how does it compare to it’s predecessor, and what can you expect? Well, let’s take a look!

The opening page is a note from the authors asking and attempting to answer the age old question: Why are dinosaurs so popular? It was a powerful opening in the 2001 original and it’s just as powerful now, going on to theorize that unlike other movie monsters, dinosaurs were once real and their sheer size and imaginable power will always fascinate us and our culture, One part has been revised from the 2001 text, now stating we have over 1,200 species of Dinosauria and that the number grows by about 40 each year. It’s staggering to read. And the closing remarks of the note from the authors on the commercial selling and poaching of dinosaur bones is  incredibly poignant.

The next few pages briefly, yet cohesively, cover the basic facts of the history of the dinosaurs (eras, time span,) as well as some information on Mesozoic plant life, how fossils are found and classified, the differentiation between ornithischian and saurischian, and a great note on drawing dinosaurs/paleoartistry, Overall these pages are exactly the same with some as in the 2001 text, with only some minor (yet major revisions.) One such revision is the changing of the end of the Cretaceous from 65 MYA to 66 MYA. It’s an important new update to the science and one I’m really glad to see in this text (since many books, media, etc. are still saying 65 MYA.)

I’m also glad that the ornithischian vs. saurischian information was still left in. Those facts are sometimes absent in many children’s texts (or it’s referenced and never really explained.) Holtz and Brett-Surman give a really good and in depth explanation as well as a diagram on the difference between the two.) I do wish that a image of the two’s pubis was included instead of just an explanation but that’s really just a nit-pick.

The main body of the book is a guide to various species of Mesozoic animals (100 to be exact: 87 dinosaurs, 3 marine reptiles, 6 non-dino archosaurs, and 4 pterosaurs (each of the non dinosaurs also have a short preface about what exactly they are in relation to dinosaurs, and the Mesozoic.) ) The guide for the most part is exactly the same except for a few changes. The page includes the name of the species, the date it was named, the name meaning, and then lists diet, location, size, and trivia facts. The main body of the page for each species explains the history of the animal and past and present theories on the animals going on in the field of paleontology today.

Some dinosaurs have been removed and some dinosaurs are new. New dinosaurs include: Anzu,  Edmontosaurus, and Othnielosaurus (was Othnielia in 2001 edition,)

There has also been a massive overhaul on the artwork, with lots of new or revised images differing from the 2001 text. Many of the animals (mainly theropods) and feathered now- a very welcome update to the text. Some of the artworks differs in style from each other and I think this has to do with there actually being two artists on this book. Robert Walters is credited on the cover as doing the illustrations but apparently Bruce J. Mohn also lent a hand in doing some of the art work as well, which was then painted by Walters. Overall the artwork is great, but there is an obvious difference between the two styles present- which was not the case in the original text. It’s not a major issue but may set off some people’s OCD.

The facts for each species continue to be great and up to date. A lot of it is the same information as the 2001 text, but there are appropriate revisions to the dating, locations, sizes, and species of dinosaurs based on current information. I do wish that some new information and debates were included though (such as Trike vs. Torosaurus and the new theory on Spinosaurus, and several others.) Current debates such as these are really changing and setting fire to the paleo-community and I feel like the are important to mention.

Probably my one biggest issue with the entire book is the revisions to the “movie facts” on random pages of the text. In the original 2001 text there would be, on select pages (usually pages with animals actually featured in the JP films) there would be an image from the JP film along with (in a slap board) info on the dinosaur in relation to the film itself. It ranged from correcting the sci-fi depictions of the dinosaurs (such as dilophosaur in Jurassic Park having venomous spit) or discussing how Tyrannosaurus rex was depicted as a caring parent.

In this edition all of the previous “movie facts” are taken out and replaced with new ones that are… vary random and not anywhere near as satisfying.  First off many of them appear on pages where they shouldn’t be (like dimorphodon being in dilophosaurs page or an apatosaur fact being on the brachiosaur page when apatosaur has it’s own section in the book itself!) Now I assume that the reason why these edits are where they are is because these pages are where the “movie facts” were in the first edition so it was fairly easy to edit the text and just swap out the picture. But if you’re going to just edit the captions at least make it a little more interesting than ‘T.rex roars on to the big screen in Jurassic World!’ Nearly all the captions say something along those lines, offering up no real information or facts unlike in the 2001 text. It’s really the biggest disappointment out of the book. Even if the editors/Universal isn’t wanting “too much” shared on JW before it’s release I still think something more substantial than a constant “come see the movie” ad should’ve been allowed.

Overall though this book is still fantastic. It actually compliments the original text well I think, especially with it’s updated information and several new dinosaurs. While there is noticeable difference in art styles, and the “movie facts” end up being nothing more than a film promotion, the book itself holds up as a wonderful basic guide into the world of the dinosaurs. It’s great for younger dinosaur enthusiasts. The text is easily understandable and everything is well explained. While you may not want to start a five year old out on this, it’s defiantly something that the pre-teenish dinosaur enthusiasts will really enjoy and find useful. But really the book is a great guide for all ages. I still take my original copy out during field work, and this edition will probably be no different. It’s great to use to brush up on facts about dinosaurs you may be excavating, or seeing in museums.

Jurassic World: Dinosaur Field Guide has a price listing of $12.99, and is currently in book stores now.