Sunday, November 07, 2010

BOOKS: How to Build a Dinosaur by Jack Horner

It's the day we turn back the clock, so I thought I'd write about a book about turning back time. Jack Horner's How to Build A Dinosaur was one of the first books I chose to read when it came time to try out the first dedicated eReader I'd ever used. And to be honest, it was a bit disappointing.

That disappointment lies probably with me. I was expecting something different. Horner has always been an entertaining presence on the screen. He's a popular university professor in Montana for a good reason. He brings the dead to life. His animated and informative teaching style translates well to the screen and his enthusiasm for dinosaurs in no put-on. He lives, breathes and eats paleontology.

But I find his writing bland. He's so completely polar opposite to our own Jay Ingram, the host of Discovery Canada's daily science news hour. Ingram is still a bit stiff and poker-faced years into the job, yet was a dynamically entertaining writer back in the day (I read his Toronto Star column religiously). That Horner doesn't translate to the page as well as I'd hoped was a shocker. He tries. But the jokes just fall flat. But that could just be me.

The sub-title to this book is, Extinction Doesn't Have To Be Forever. This from a man who was the technical consultant on Jurassic Park. That was the seller to me, more than the cover picture of a dinosaur claw emerging from a freshly-hatched egg. I thought we would have a real good, "How to We Bring Back Dinosaurs" treatise. Instead, I was treated to a university level bio course--biology, biomechanics, bioethics and all things starting with bio-. There was a little bit about the problems of growing a dino from a chicken egg. But that was a starting point with no real second step. Horner never got me to the point of wondering where in the world we would REALLY set up our 21st century dinosaur farm.

So, did Horner write a bad book or did he NOT write the book I expected. The latter I suspect. Still, be forewarned. This book is heavy on the science and fairly light on the extrapolation. If that fits your bill, read on. You will be informed. If not, if you're just a dreamer like me, maybe this might be a book to skip.

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