Archive for March, 2013

What Brian Russell Remembers About Dinosaurs

dinosaursA while back, Brian Russell, artist of the webcomic The Underfold, announced a Kickstarter for a book called What I Remember About Dinosaurs. The idea is great. I’ve lamented before about how much common knowledge regarding dinosaurs is either obsolete or just plain wrong. Brian’s idea was to compile a lot of this false information into a humorous book… basically an educational book written off the top of his head. A great idea. But how does it work in practice?

In the introduction, he immediately warns the reader: “Don’t let this be the only book you read about dinosaurs”. A wise piece of advice. He also states that the book is meant to be “Humorous and a bit educational.” And it is both of those things, I suppose.

The art is reminiscent of The Underfold (without the trademark tentacles). Simple line drawings and lack of detail make for a fine webcomic. For a book, though, I think that large pieces of white space need to be filled with something besides gradient skies and grass. The best visual page isn’t even dinosaur-related, it’s a visualization of the timeline between “millions of years ago” and “now”.

The content is more or less what I expected. I like the explanation of “brontosaurus never existed” shown alongside a picture of a crying brontosaurus. In places like that, Brian’s humor comes out in one of its better ways. He pokes fun at cultural ignorance of dinosaurs by showing them mostly non-feathered (velociraptors are shown with feathers, but the T-rex and other bipedal dinosaurs that were feathered aren’t shown that way). My favorite line is probably “While most of the information you’ll learn is from the Cretaceous period, there was a movie, and now all anyone remembers is Jurassic”.

What bothers me in the content itself, though, is that while the book is only meant to be “a bit” educational, the writing style shows it more skeptical of science. The creationist idea that “the flood caused the Ice Age” is actually introduced before the dominant idea of the asteroid collision, regarding dinosaurs’ extinction. The plesiosaur is shown with its neck poking out of the water saying “call me Nessie”. If the book was more straightforward in its humor, these issues would fit right in, but the way it’s written, they seem oddly out of place.

Overall, though, What I Remember About Dinosaurs is a fun little romp into all the things we remembered as kids. I’d recommend it for a teenager or preteen who is interested in dinosaurs or science in general, to be used as an educational tool regarding skepticism or general knowledge of science in general. Or, if you were a fan of The Underfold (which is on a break), you definitely want to read it, because it’s the same kind of humor that makes the comic so fun. You can buy it on Amazon!

All in all, I’m pretty impressed that Brian remembers more about dinosaurs than most people I talk to, and I look forward to the return of The Underfold, and I can tell from reading this one that his next book will be even better.