Sunday, August 28, 2016

T. rex and the Crater of Doom

T. rex and the Crater of Doom is a book about science unlike any other I've read. Instead of trying to inform the reader about our current understanding of things, it tells the story about how we got there. In other words, it's not just about science, it's about how science is done. Specifically, it tells the story of how puny humans with short lives were able to figure out that all the dinosaurs were murdered by a massive space rock.

This story is told by Walter Alvarez, one of the geologists who first tried to investigate the strange layer at the K-T boundary, which lies right above where the dinosaurs disappear. Walter noticed that there was something odd about the boundary, and decided he would try to get to the bottom of it. As a result, he finds evidence which might go disprove one of the most basic ideas in geology at the time: the idea that all geologic changes happen gradually.

Although the story is gripping, the real reason I love this book is that it explains how science is actually done, not in the abstract, but with an actual real-world example. Anyone who has ever been doubtful of the claims that geologists or paleontologists make about the past needs to read this book. Anyone who thinks that these areas of science are somehow "lesser" than physics or [insert your favorite field here] needs to read this book. And, of course, anyone wondering how we could have possibly found out about this catastrophic event needs to read this book. T. rex and the Crater of Doom is an experience that everyone should have.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Beware The Wild

Natalie C. Parker's Beware the Wild is about a girl named Sterling, who lives in the small town of Sticks, Louisiana. Everything is pretty great in Sticks, so long as you never, under any circumstances, cross the fence and go into the swamp. When the book opens, Sterling is steadily watching the fence for any signs of her only sibling, Phin, who has of course run into the swamp.

Fortunately, her sister, Lenora May, reemerges from the swamp, just in time for her mother to call them in to dinner. There is no problem with this situation and everything is fine. Except for the small detail that Sterling doesn't have a sister. Or, well, she didn't. Everyone in town has excepted Lenora May as if she was always there, and nobody can remember Phin. In fact, Sterling herself distinctly remembers having Lenora May as a sister throughout her whole life.

Now, Sterling has to figure out what's happening, get her brother back, and send Lenora May back where she belongs. Or does she? First, she must play the age-old game of figure-out-who-you-can-trust-or-die. Saying any more about the plot would kinda spoil the fun of the game, so let's just leave it at that.

Beware the Wild is apparently Natalie's first book, and I have to say she's off to a really good start. The way she portrays the insidious replacement of memories is better than any other I've ever seen. I do think that the first half of the book, the aforementioned game of figuring things out, is better than the second half, or the game of ACTION. That's not to say that Beware the Wild ends badly, far from it, it's just that the first parts were so strong that the exciting, high-stakes climax seems just mediocre in comparison.

In conclusion, Beware the Wild is fun and exciting and a good way to spend a weekend. When you pick it up, you will find it difficult to put down. If you like fantasy in a modern setting with a pinch of the surreal, Beware the Wild is the book for you. Well, it's a book for you. You can also read other books. What I'm saying is you'll like it and you should read it.