Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dinotopia Lost Review (Alan Dean Foster)

In all Dinotopia's countless centuries, rarely has a vessel reached her peaceful shores except as a splintered wreck, until a mighty, storm-swollen breaker hurls the pirate ship Condor beyond the treacherous fangs of the coral reefs that surround the island. When marauding pirates capture a family of Struthiomimuses, young skybax rider Will Denison leads a tiny band of rescuers on a pursuit that takes them into the perilous Rainy Basin, where tryannosaurs still stalk the steamy forest long abandoned by civilized Dinotopians. Doggedly tracking the invaders, Will and his companions, Chaz and Keelk, must face many dangers - both old and new.

As a child, I loved Dinotopia stories! All of them involved exploring and danger and adventure. More often than not, I found myself more attached to the saurian characters than the human. I was first interested in Dinotopia when I saw the Hallmark mini-series. It wasn't until one of my friend's loaned me The World Beneath and A Land Apart from Time that I realized how much the TV series distorted James Gurney's original stories - a fact that still irks me to no end. I was sorry that James Gurney hadn't written more Dinotopia books - his were my favorites, - but I gobbled up the paperback series very quickly, as well as the two books Alan Dean Foster has written - The Hand of Dinotopia and now Dinotopia Lost. The only Dinotopia book I haven't read is First Flight - which is, unfortunately, extremely difficult to gets one's hands on because it is out of print.

Dinotopia Lost wasn't entirely a letdown. It had the same sense of adventure and exploration. Even though these stories take place in a utopian society, the villains always get their comeuppance. Their demise is rarely as satisfying as it could be, but at least people still die. And one cannot have a good adventure story without some characters dying. What I have always mainly loved about these stories is the era. I love the fact that James Gurney chose the 19th century - and added a great deal of that same flavor to Dinotopia itself. I doubt I would have been as enchanted with his world if he had done otherwise.

But reading these stories now, at an older age, is interesting. I have a different perspective on it. I still love the adventure, the humor, and of course Will Denison (I wish this particular one had had Sylvia in it; she's a favorite as well). But when I was little, I was able to block out the flaws in basing stories in a utopian society and just enjoy the adventure. Now, it was more difficult. I couldn't ignore Alan Dean Foster's spouting of utopian ideals - aspects that always made the TV mini-series nauseating to me, even as a child - and the overall sense that he was disparaging the world. I tried to become drawn into the story, but with every phrase consisting of "in harmony with" or "helping each other," I could not help but repeat silently to myself, Utopian societies just don't work. History has proven that. The nice thing about James Gurney's Dinotopia books is he spends more time concentrating on the adventure and exploration than ideals.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the only thing that irritated me about Dinotopia Lost. There are pirates. Now, pirates were in existence in some parts of world during the 19th century - pirates still exist to this day. But the pirates in this story seemed as if they belonged more in some poorly-written swashbuckler, whose author (it is painfully obvious) has spent all of his life in a landlocked location and has gained all of his "sea knowledge" from equally-inaccurate sources like Pirates of the Caribbean.

I will always enjoy Dinotopia stories to an extent - they were a part of my childhood. But reading ones that are written by someone else other than James Gurney are not as enjoyable now as it once was. Still, I am pleased to at last be able to say that I have read all Dinotopia books, save one.

Star Rating: 3/5 (liked it)


  1. I have only seen the Hallmark mini series, and I've been wanting to read these books. Which is the first one to read by James Gurney?

  2. Really, you can read any of them, but technically "Dinotopia: Land Apart from Time" is first, "The World Beneath" second, and "Journey to Chandara" third. And actually he has a fourth - "First Flight" which, I guess is his first book, but it is extremely hard to find. I haven't read it yet, and the cheapest copy I've ever found was $75.00 Unfortunately, I didn't buy it in time . . .


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