Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My 5th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews":
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews":
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews":
-"My 4th Pair of Reviews":

An updated version of a childhood classic ( ): 5/5

If you're anything like me (I.e. A life-long dino fan born in the 1980s), you probably grew up with Zallinger's work in general & "Prehistoric Animals" (henceforth PA) in particular. Bakker's "Prehistoric Monsters" (henceforth PM) is basically an updated version of PA. In fact, despite being 8 pages shorter & not illustrated by the author (which are my only gripes), PM is even better than PA: For 1, PM's text is more concise (E.g. PM does in 2 pages what takes PA 4 pages to do: ); For another, PM's paleoart is more realistic (I.e. To paraphrase Switek, "[Rey's] animals run, swim, breach, flap, chomp, skitter, and lope through the landscapes, giving the viewer the impression that they're really watching a prehistoric scene rather than an obedient dinosaur posing for the artist"); For yet another, PM is more complete overall, covering a greater length of geologic time (3+ billion years vs. 500+ million years) & a greater variety of animal life, especially invertebrates. In short, PM is the best introduction to the history of animal life on Earth for younger kids.

A representation of uninformed laziness ( ): 1/5

Short Version: If you want the best digital paleoart, get Csotonyi's "The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi". If you want the best natural history of dinos, get Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs". If you want the best collection of dino profiles, get GSPaul's "The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs". Brusatte/Benton's "Dinosaurs" fails at being any of these or even just decent in its own right.

Long Version: Read on.

Benton & Brusatte are consistently good sources for the specialist (E.g. See Brusatte's "Dinosaur Paleobiology"). However, they're also consistently not-so-good sources for casual readers/the enthusiast. Dinosaurs in particular is so bad that Naish described it as a representation of "uninformed laziness" ( ). In this review, I list the 4 main reasons why I think Dinosaurs is that bad.

1) The writing is annoyingly hyperbolic (E.g. See the Brusatte/Benton quote)/repetitive (E.g. On average, the word "dominate" is used once or twice per page in Dinosaurs, a 224 page book; In fact, it's used 3 times, back-to-back, in the 1st paragraph alone)/inconsistent (E.g. It goes back & forth between "story" & "storey" throughout Dinosaurs).

2) The text is hit-&-miss in terms of getting the facts straight. This is especially apparent in the dino profiles because the misses stick out more with less text. That of the Protoceratops profile is some of the worst: On page 205, Protoceratops is described as being "a small, generalized grazer of low plants"; Also, on the same page, it's claimed that "the frill anchored strong jaw muscles...that helped Protoceratops mow through shrubs and bushes". When I 1st read that, all I could think was "BS": For 1 (in reference to "on page 205"), "the hooked beak of the snout together with the predentary...strongly suggests that these herbivores were capable of a great deal of selective feeding" (See Fastovsky/Weishampel's "The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs"); For another (in reference to "also"), "there are many problems with this idea, starting with the fact that no living animal has such strange lengthy jaw muscles. Such muscles would have been terribly vulnerable to injury if males really did fight with each other as we think likely" (See Lanzendorf's "Dinosaur Imagery: The Science of Lost Worlds and Jurassic Art: The Lanzendorf Collection").

3) "Planet Dinosaur" (which is a decent dino doc in its own right) was billed as the new "Walking With Dinosaurs" (which is the 1st natural history doc about dinos). However, to quote Albertonykus ( ), "One of the less desirable characteristics of Planet Dinosaur is that it's very theropod centric...Planet Dinosaur probably should have been called "Planet Theropod"." Likewise, Dinosaurs should've been called "Theropods": It's claimed that Dinosaurs is a natural history of dinos several times throughout (E.g. "The rich, unfolding drama of the Age of Dinosaurs is the theme of this book"); However, while 5 sub-chapters focus on theropods (1 for tetanurans, 1 for coelurosaurs, 1 for bird origins & evolution, 1 for Chinese feathered dinos, & 1 for T.rex), only 3 focus on non-theropods (2 for sauropodomorphs & 1 for ornithischians).*

4) Pixel-shack's digital paleoart is the worst I've seen in a post-2000 popular dino book. In Dinosaurs, some of the reconstructions are shameless rip-offs of more famous reconstructions (E.g. The Spinosaurus is a shameless rip-off of the "Jurassic Park" Spinosaurus). Others are poorly-photoshopped animals (E.g. The non-dino Euparkeria is a poorly-photoshopped green iguana). Still others are just plain outdated/abominable. The deinonychosaurs are especially outdated: To quote Naish ( ), "When a dinosaur book published in 2011 features scaly-skinned, completely un-feathered dromaeosaurs with down-facing palms, and yet was supposedly checked by one of the world's most famous and respected vertebrate palaeontologists, we know we have a problem"; & if that's not bad enough, most of them are depicted with Velociraptor's head; This is especially apparent in the Dromaeosaurus (See "Voir les 7 images": ) because it's also a shameless rip-off of Kokoro's Velociraptor. Likewise, the ceratopsians are especially abominable: Most of them are depicted as being piles of poop (I'm not trying to be creative or vulgar with my language; They really look like piles of poop); This is especially apparent in the Torosaurus ( ) because it's even lumpier & darker brown than the others; & if that's not bad enough, the Torosaurus is also a shameless rip-off of the "Walking With Dinosaurs" Torosaurus.

*A decent natural history of dinos would combine the 1 for bird origins & evolution with the 1 for Chinese feathered dinos (as in Chapter 10 of Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs"). Also, it would use T.rex as a vehicle to address a broader range of topics (as with Baryonyx in Chapter 9 of Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs").
Quoting Brusatte/Benton: "In 1922 Andrews' team discovered a heavily crushed but remarkably complete skull of a small theropod. This skull was very similar to Brown's Dromaeosaurus, but found alongside was something paleontologists had never seen before: a giant, curved and dangerously sharp toe claw. Two years later museum scientist Henry Fairfield Osborn named this new animal Velociraptor, the 'speedy thief'. It was a nightmarish creature, a human-sized carnivore that could rip prey apart with its lethal claws and array of knife-like teeth."