Book Review: Pigeon Post

Pigeon Post is the sixth novel in the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. There are 12 books in the series in total.

Pigeon Post, unlike its predecessor Coot Club, is set once again in the Lake District. The book unites Dick and Dorothea (the D’s), Nancy and Peggy (the Amazons), and John, Susan, Tigger, and Roger (the Swallows) during the summer holidays. The children are determined to camp on High Topps, on a mission to discover and mine gold. They also, oddly enough, await the arrival of an armadillo named Timothy.

Similarly to Winter Holiday, there were also some genuinely scary and dramatic scenes; High Topps is known for its risk of fires, and exploring caves and mines could lead to all kinds of dangers…

But no spoilers.

Pigeon Post is Ransome’s funniest book yet.

Arthur Ransome’s writing has always been fairly witty but here, humour just exudes from both his narrative style and the characters’ own personalities. My love for Roger has grown even stronger; he is always does something ridiculous or saying something silly, and at one point, he even gets a chapter to himself!

It was enjoyable to see all the children interact together in a large group and bounce off everyone else.

However, I thought it interesting how, throughout the book, I identified most with the children’s mothers  and Susan – the “mother” of the group – to make sure everyone was fed, washed, and in bed at suitable times. This may be a consequence of reading the series for the first time as an adult, rather than a child!

I’m also continually impressed by the cleverness and capabilities of these children. For example, Dick constructs a carrier pigeon postal system, hence the title of the book, which is designed to ring a bell when a carrier pigeon arrives with a letter and he also reads books about metalwork, so that the children can build a blast furnace to attempt to extract their findings.

Nowadays, I know health and safety is incredibly restrictive on what children can and can’t do, but I wonder if modern children are even interested in such outdoorsy, practical tasks. I can’t help but be sceptical and wonder: if there isn’t an app for these things, will today’s youth be interested?

Pigeon Post is my boyfriend’s favourite book of the series. I’m still torn on my decision; I really enjoyed it, and for that reason, it’s definitely one of my firm favourites.

– Judith

 

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Book Review: Jurassic Park

Image via Universal.

“You really do have dinosaurs on the brain.”’

If you don’t know what Jurassic Park is, have you been living under a rock?

The Films

Jurassic Park is a science fiction novel by Michael Crichton. It was adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg, which was released in 1993. It had 2 sequels: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001).

My Photo [Jurassic 1 Poster].jpg
Image via Amazon.com

In 2015, the Jurassic Park franchise expanded when Jurassic World was released in 2015, directed by Colin Trevorrow, starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. Having seen the original films, I watched Jurassic World for the first time this summer. Jurassic World is basically a soft reboot of Jurassic Park (1993) with some questionable characters and plot elements, which has some fun moments nonetheless and much better CGI dinosaurs.

Its sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was released in the summer of 2018, which I watched too. I thought Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was much better than its predecessor in characters, storytelling, and visuals. It was the scariest Jurassic Park film I’ve ever seen and in places was incredibly gruesome and gory.

A third sequel is planned, preemptively titled Jurassic World 3 and is estimated to be released in 2021.

The Novel

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, as most already know, is about an amusement park and zoo founded by John Hammond. The park is filled with real dinosaurs, recreated in laboratories using DNA recovered in dinosaur fossils and preserved insects. The paleontologist Alana Grant, the botanist Ellie Sattler, the mathematician Ian Malcolm, and Hammond’s two grandchildren, Timmy and Lex, are invited to view the park before it officially opens. Whilst all seems fun and interesting initially, the park begins to malfunction, and so the dinosaurs escape, wreaking inconceivable havoc.

I loved this book more than I even thought I would.

It was instantly entertaining and instantly scary, as there are dinosaur attacks in the book omitted from the film, so the characters are never far away from a predatory encounter.

The arguably most memorable scenes from Jurassic Park (1993) are when the Tyrannosaurus Rex escapes and when Timmy and Lex are hunted by Velociraptors in the kitchen.

2 - T Rex
Image via YouTube.com

These scenes are expertly written in the book and genuinely frightening – more so than in Spielberg’s film because your imagination can truly go crazy. Every time characters have to run or hide, it’s so exciting and tense.

1 - Raptors in the Kitchen
Image via YouTube.com

In addition to the intense events within Jurassic Park, there was also lots of interesting scientific information about the various dinosaurs. This made them more complex than just ‘scary monsters’, explaining Grant and Sattler’s fascination with them, and highlighting Hammond’s exploitation of them.

Crichton really paints Hammond as the villain of the piece, which doesn’t come across as strongly in Spielberg’s film. Hammond is a man eager to get rich and create popular entertainment quickly by exploiting living creatures for gain, whilst neglecting to fund proper care and research into what individual species require and the dangers they pose. Ian Malcolm criticises Hammond and the industry of modern science, predicting the park will devolve into chaos immediately, due to the park’s focus on commercial gain rather than safety and careful study. No doubt this analogy can be applied to modern zoos today.

Jurassic Park was a highly entertaining book, and I’d happily re-read it. I ordered Crichton’s sequel, The Lost World, the same day I finished Jurassic Park.

I strongly recommend if you love the film franchise but haven’t yet read the book on which it’s based!

– Judith

Book Review: Commune: Book Three

Commune: Book Three is the third book in Joshua Gayou’s post-apocalyptic / dystopian series. I’ve read  and reviewed both Commune: Book One and Commune: Book Two.

This third instalment follows the Jackson commune as they gather supplies and reinforce their camps in order to endure a bitter winter in Wyoming. Elsewhere, other factions are beginning to form – though not all of them pleasant.

My Photo [Commune Book 3]

Commune: Book Three contains a brief recap of the second book. I appreciated this because I hadn’t read the previous book in a while, and it conveyed that this series is dramatic and episodic, like a television series.

Once again, some new characters were introduced, adding to Gayou’s ever-expanding world. His ability to write about so many characters and settings with increasing depth and creativity is impressive, and I think Gayou’s talent improves with each instalment.

Characters, I think, are really the focus of Commune: Book Three.

There isn’t masses of action, but there’s plenty of interaction between other characters to occupy your attention. There were also some poetry segments, which were ok, but I’m not a poetry fan so I skimmed them fairly quickly.

Clay and Ronny, leaders of a Nevada survivor group, are instant foils (opposites) for Jake and Gibs, leaders of the Jackson commune. I instantly disliked Clay which, though it shows good character-building, made me enjoy the narrative about Clay and his group less. I admit, I perked up more once the narrative switched back to the more familiar, likeable characters from the Jackson commune.

Speaking of familiar characters, Elizabeth, the wilful daughter of Amanda, is given an interesting storyline within Commune: Book Three. She learns new skills and vents the difficulties of being a child in such a ruthless new world. When life is no longer fun and games, but you’re too young to be given adult responsibilities, what can you do?

Romance subplots are also gradually introduced. I discussed the theme of romance in my review of Commune: Book One, saying:

‘It was refreshing to have a stronger female character who builds up a close relationship to a male without it being reduced to a love story.’

In the first book, I liked that male and female characters could form friendships without being complicated by romance. By the third book, developing romantic interests between minor characters was paced well, completely natural, and lovely to see.

If it sounds like I’m referring to the previous two books and my previous two reviews often, it’s because I am. Commune: Book Three ties the events of both books together in a neat and entertaining way, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable sequel to a story I’ve now been tracing across for more than a year.

The ending was descriptive and made me want to read on, without being an overly dramatic or cliché cliffhanger, although it didn’t go entirely where I expected it to, or where I wanted it to.

In summary, Commune: Book Three is another strong performance by Joshua Gayou and I’m interested to see what happens next.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Commune: Book Three is available to buy as an e-book on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

– Judith