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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Fragment


- a mantis shrimp

My latest book from the library is Fragment: A Novel by Warren Fahy. The book begins with some factual info about the consequences of the introduction of non-native organisms to habitats (like the snakehead fish to the US), and then goes on to describe a fictitious island isolated and untouched by humans, with dangerously unique plants and animals, discovered first by a British tall ship in search of HMS Bounty, and in the present day by a reality tv show's ship of scientists. Here's the blurb from Publishers Weekly ....

Fahy's imaginative debut puts a fresh spin on the survival-of-prehistoric-beasts theme popularized by Jurassic Park. When members of the cable reality show SeaLife, aboard a ship in the South Pacific, respond to a distress beacon from Henders Island, several of the show's scientists wind up slaughtered by bizarre animals on the remote island. In response, the U.S. government blockades Henders Island to contain the serious biothreat its unique fauna could pose to humanity. The ship's botanist, Nell Duckworth, joins the investigative team, which quickly finds that arthropods on the island have evolved into sophisticated and ferocious life forms. Particularly memorable and frightening are the creatures Nell dubs spigers, which have eight legs and are twice the size of a Bengal tiger. Exciting debates on topics like the role of sexual reproduction in the development of life on Earth provide a sound scientific background.

The book is pretty good so far - it has its flaws (there's lots of Jurassic Park type violence, and the quality of the story deteriorates towards the end) but I'm finding the science in it interesting. One of the characters works at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and I've learned of the strange attributes of some interesting creatures: the horseshoe crab's blood, the mantis shrimp's eyes, and the barnacle's penis :)

You can read an excerpt from the book at the Wall Street Journal here.


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