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Monday, August 8, 2011

Bio-Art: Fragment.

Yet another result of Borders binging, Fragment had my eye for a while. Every time I passed it in the bookstore, I would stop by and take a look. I was all "huh, sounds cool," then I would put the book back. With its price slashed from 25-something to six bucks, I had no excuse not to buy it.

I now have more confidence that I can become a published writer.

 

First off, the cover slip, good review, and inner flap information are misleading. Despite the scales and raptorish-claw, there are no dinosaurs involved in this story. Period. It is similar to Jurassic Park primarily in its use of data to supplement something that could happen, but JP reigns supreme when it comes to reviving ancient creatures.

Fragment does not revive ancient creatures in the same way Jurassic Park did. Instead, it answers the question, "What would happen if an island existed, untouched by other landmasses, for billions of years?" The answer, according to author Warren Fahy, is "Australia on crack with crustaceans." Seriously, I should scan you all the concept sketches for his new species.

Humans come to the island of lost species via a sponsored reality TV show. They hear a S.O.S. signal from an abandoned boat and decide, hey, what better setting for an epic series? This plan is thwarted when over half the crew is killed by the island's vicious inhabitants. Later, it turns out that not every creature on this rock is blood and guts incarnate, so three of the initial crew members have to preserve at least one benevolent species. Easier said than done. 

Therein lies the real charm of Fragment for any biologist or creature designer: The island Fahy creates is in complete isolation from most forms of vertebrate life. Everything on said island is derived from a creature I have already talked about on this blog: the mantis shrimp.

In case your nightmares were lacking in rainbows.
 

Mantis shrimp are badasses. They see more colors than humans. They can break aquarium glass. They have very pretty colors. Who's to say that some remote island doesn't have weirdass relatives of mantis shrimp? That sounds like a recipe for success right there. We're amazed that these Cthulhu-Xanadu hellspawn have not taken over the world yet.

The island ecology that Fahy made based on these crustaceans branching off was anything but fragile. Numerous animals, including hawks, pit vipers, and mongooses, were tested against his mantis shrimp-based ecology. Even though science says things with exoskeletons cannot get that big (I'd have to check his explanation for myself), mantis shrimp relatives are so awesome they beat vertebrates in minutes. He definitely put effort into making a dog-eat-dog-and-everything-else ecology work. MMOs and Avatar could take a few hints from this guy.

I just wish Fahy's writing had been awesome enough to back up the story's creative setting. He starts a lot of sentences with conjunctions, which sounds awkward in English (but not in other languages). Many of the paragraphs are two sentences and not very detailed. The headers jump around so much that it's a little dizzying. Although the creatures the author designed merit awesome CGI, the book has doomed itself with its format. Instead of getting a full-length movie, it will likely get shunted into a made-for-TV-movie, a TV series, or a movie that feels made for TV.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the killer land-dwelling arthropods for all they were worth.  Jurassic Park still outshines it in every regard. Would I recommend it? Well, it was worth 6 bucks.

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