Tag Archives: genetics

Jurassic Park

Author: Michael Crichton

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Building a theme park on a tropical island featuring real, live dinosaurs is a breathtaking dream–but for the wealthy John Hammond, it’s a dream he’s intent on seeing become a reality. With massive funding and state-of-the-art genetic engineering, he’s managed to actually bring dinosaurs to life using ancient DNA. And before unveiling the park for the public, he’s invited a special group of consultants, investors, and his own grandchildren for a preview tour of the park. But as their visit continues, things begin to go awry one by one in the worst possible way until it’s uncertain if any of them will even survive.

Jurassic Park is the first Michael Crichton I’ve ever read, and on the whole, I found it something of a James Patterson meets Stephen King thriller, with a stronger bent in the Patterson direction. It’s definitely a thriller, with plenty of action, blood, and scares. But it’s also a slower burn at the start than I was expecting, which was actually kind of nice. Heads didn’t start rolling until, like, halfway through, which gives some time for setting and character development. Having said that, none of the characters really gelled with me other than the paleontologists, who are obviously written in such a way that you’re supposed to like them. And yes, I need to get this out of the way, the story’s kind of sexist and racist–especially notably so in how the Costa Rican workers aren’t even considered in the head-counts or as real characters at all. I’ve also heard the story criticized for plot holes, although I didn’t notice any particularly; I also wasn’t looking for that particularly. As far as thrillers go, it was an exciting and creative read, so it fulfilled its basic purpose quite admirably I think. Although I’m not enough of a scientist to tell how accurate the science used here is (and it’s probably pretty out of date by now in any case), it was interesting to see so much scientific and mathematical theory worked into the plot. That in itself definitely makes Jurassic Park way more interesting than a lot of thrillers in my opinion. Recommended if you’re in the mood for a slower-burn, dinosaur-themed thriller with plenty of suspense.

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Orphan Black (2013 TV Series)

Temple Street Productions, BBC America, and Bell Media’s Space

Status: Complete (5 seasons/50 episodes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience

Accomplished grifter Sarah Manning walks into the train station and witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like Sarah herself. Both curious and ready to take advantage of the situation, Sarah assumes the identity of the woman, Beth Childs, with the help of her foster-brother Felix. What follows is a whirlwind of monumental proportions as Sarah discovers that she is but one of many clones. Meeting her newfound “sisters” is just the beginning as they face their own dark past, those in the present who would destroy or manipulate them, a defect built into their own DNA that is slowly killing them, not to mention being completely unsure who to trust. But at the same time, they discover a new family and a strength in each other to help them face the maelstrom with defiance as they choose their own ways to live.

Orphan Black is one of those shows that, as incredible as it sounds at first, delivers so much more than it initially promises. It’s really quite amazing. Well, Tatiana Maslany is amazing, that’s for sure. She manages to pull off multiple clones with distinct styles, mannerisms, personalities, etc. and keep them all unique–sometimes with multiples of them in the same room conversing and even physically interacting with each other. Her grasp of each of the characters is incredible–to the point where you can even tell where one sister is pretending to be another sister by super-tiny but well-realized tells. Maslany’s acting in this series truly blows me away! Not to mention the sheer cinematography required to pull off some of the scenes; it’s seamless and beautiful. The characters are great as well–thoroughly developed with uncertainties and flaws and emotional subtlety and moral ambiguity and all the complexities that make people truly human. You’ve got a ton of diversity, even just among the clones, too. And the other characters are brilliantly cast and played as well. Felix is quite possibly my favorite character in the whole show; he’s the heart and the artist, the home-like softer side of things, which is kind of hilarious since he tries so hard to be defiant and brash. I love him, though. And Siobhan, Sarah and Felix’s foster-mother–all the mystery and protectiveness in her character is fabulous! As for the plot, well, again it’s so much more than we are initially promised at the beginning. I mean, you start out with a girl taking over the life of a cop who looks like her, encountering a couple other girls who claim to be her clones, dealing with trying to be a mom to her daughter–intense stuff for sure, but fairly contained and small-scale. But by the end of it, you’ve got decades-long, multinational plots and huge, interconnected organizations and hundreds of clones and major life-or-death situations. It’s all pretty overwhelming and hard to keep track of, to be honest–the main reason I can’t give this a full 5 of 5 rating, actually. Still, it all ties up better than I expected by the end, and the conclusion was enough to make me cry but also be quite satisfying. This show is definitely not for the faint of heart and is only for a mature, adult audience, but I would still highly recommend Orphan Black for many, many reasons. It’s a great show that I will enjoy re-watching many times over.

Created by Graeme Manson & John Fawcett/Executive Production by Ivan Schneeberg, David Fortier, Graeme Manson, & John Fawcett/Produced by Russ Cochrane, Alex Levine, Claire Welland, Tatiana Maslany, & Aubrey Nealon/Cinematography by Aaron Morton/Music by Trevor Yuile/Starring Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Michael Mando, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Évelyne Brochu, Ari Millen, Kristian Bruun, & Josh Vokey

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School’s Out–Forever

school's out foreverAuthor: James Patterson

Maximum Ride, vol. 2/The Fugitives, vol. 2

My rating: 4 of 5

Max’s flock is on their way to D.C. to attempt to find their families. When yet another run in with the wolf-like Erasers leaves Fang terribly injured, it appears the flock will have to rely on grown-ups (non-avian) for help–something absolutely terrifying when those same adults might turn on you at any moment, especially when they find out you’re a mutant bird-kid. The situation might just be a blessing in disguise, however, as the kids find themselves welcomed to a big ranch house with plenty of land, food, and even real beds for them all. They even get the chance to go to an actual school–a first for all of them! Naturally, such an idyllic situation has Max absolutely on edge . . . quite possibly with good reason.

School’s Out–Forever follows immediately on the heels of The Angel Experiment and carries on the story and tone excellently. Patterson continues to develop all six (seven if you count Total, which–let’s face it– you should, even if he is just the dog) of the characters, with a combined heartwarming, heartrending, and hilarious effect. The setting, for a large portion of the book, is stable–unlike the first volume–yet the author keeps the story moving at a brisk pace. The content and language are a bit more mature, although still well within acceptable limits for an under-16 audience. (I kind of get the feeling that, since most of the people who read the first book were a bit older, Patterson just went with it in School’s Out–Forever.) As in the previous volume, the attitude and the quotations are fantastic (Particularly the exchanges between Fang (Fnick) and Iggy (Figgy). Love those two!) School’s Out–Forever is definitely a recommended read; just be sure to read The Angel Experiment first.

 

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The Angel Experiment

the angel experimentAuthor: James Patterson

Maximum Ride, vol. 1/The Fugitives, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Maximum Ride and her flock of winged, genetic-experimentation escapees–Fang, Iggy, Nudge, The Gasman, and Angel–have enjoyed the past couple years in relative peace due to the isolation of their hidden home. That all changes quickly, however, when the Erasers (another genetic experiment–gone horribly wrong, in my opinion) discover their hideout and kidnap Angel. They take Angel back to the horrible lab, “the School,” where the children all endured imprisonment and miserable experimentation during their younger years. Now Max must protect the remaining members of her flock, keep them all united, rescue Angel, and figure out where to go from there. No problem, right?

I really enjoyed reading The Angel Experiment. The story is creative and intense. Having 2- to 3-page chapters makes it easier to read in small chunks (although it’s far too easy to get sucked in and read huge sections at a time!). I love the attitude that permeates the book, too; very . . . blasé? Sassy? I’m not quite sure what to call it, but it’s quite appealing. The flock really made the story for me; all six are extremely strong characters in distinct ways. Their unity through everything, and in spite of clashing personalities at times, is wonderful also. And again, may I mention attitude. . . . The flock has some of the best quotations ever. On a side note, The Angel Experiment was a lot cleaner than I had expected–it reads like a teen/adult novel, yet is basically kid-appropriate, barring, perhaps, the scariness. All in all, an excellent read.

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