Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: Dinosaur Jazz

Dinosaur Jazz
Dinosaur Jazz by Michael Panush

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free eGalley eBook version of this book from Curiosity Quills via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Acheron Island is a world lost to time, home to prehistoric creatures from earth’s savage past.

The island’s occupants range from ferocious, man-eating dinosaurs and savage Ape Man tribes to strange ruins from a lost civilization. It is also home to Sir Edwin Crowe, son of the Victorian explorer who discovered Acheron Island, renowned big game hunter, scarred Great War veteran, and last of the world’s Gentleman Adventurers.

But now Acheron Island has some new residents – ruthless American businessman Selwyn Slade and an army of corporate cronies. Why has Slade brought all of his modern industrial power to conquer this world from the past? Can Sir Edwin uncover his strange purpose and protect this prehistoric world? Sir Edwin’s only allies are his stalwart Ape Man partner, a beautiful torch singer with a mysterious agenda, his strong-willed sister and her archaeologist boyfriend, and a family of American tourists – and they’re about to become the last hope of a lost world.

It’s Jazz Age meets the Mesozoic Age in a world where cave men, gangsters, hunters, zeppelins, pirates, warlords and dinosaurs clash for a chance of survival. All that and more is waiting for you in Dinosaur Jazz, a tale of high adventure in a prehistoric world.

My Thoughts: Michael Panush is a truly remarkable young man – only 22 and already has three books published. In fact, I recently read the first volume in the Stein and Candle mystery series (and have the second one waiting for me) and quite enjoyed it. This book has a similar feel to it – a perfect blend of light-heartedness and dangerousness; plenty to laugh at, but plenty of thrills and chills and violence to keep you turning the pages.

Steampunk has become a very popular genre of fantasy, giving us a world more genteel and at the same time more adventurous than the one we inhabit, full of gadgets, derring-do, and history that impossibly fulfills the native desire of the reader to escape. It is an understandable obsession; those of us who read – many of us, that is – read in order to escape reality. Steampunk not only allows us to escape reality, but to create a new one, rising from the ashes of the old, while at the same time inhabiting that more genteel time and place. One of the topics addressed in this book was how anachronistic Crowe, the main character, is in the “modern world” he now inhabits, after the end of the first World War, as he tries to be a gentleman adventurer, a Great White Hunter, a man’s man in a dog-eat-dog-eat-dinosaur world. I think this internal struggle encompasses the whole concept of steampunk very nicely.

Acheron Island sounds like a really beautiful place, even with the dangers. For a small place, it seems to have a lot of room and a highly diverse ecosystem (this is actually addressed in the book), as well as a highly diverse population. I had to laugh at the group of Dino Hunters, as they are called popularly throughout the world – while they are a diverse bunch, they were also rather stereotypical, or at least the broad outlines of their characters are. However, Panush does a decent job of giving us characters that are different enough to be individual, developed enough to be interesting, and each has their own reasons for doing as they do. However, it is due to the characters that this book is deserving of only four stars instead of five; I think the same thing could have been accomplished without calling upon the stereotypes that are used to create the broad outlines of each of the characters and, while those stereotypes gave me a lot of entertainment, it seemed a bit lazy to me.

Don’t let that stop you, though – this is a good story, solid, fun and entertaining, which is the whole point after all. If you like steampunk, stories of lost worlds and great adventures, and the ongoing battle of the just and honorable against the evil and greedy, you won’t want to miss this book.

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