Monday, April 23, 2012

Cruising the World

Cruising can be a very relaxing vacation. The vacationer is pampered with nice rooms, attentive staff, great food and entertainment. However if you don’t do your research ahead of time then your cruise can go wrong very quickly. You could have a great experience on one cruise, and yet another cruise by the same company can be a disaster. Online research is one venue of getting the scoop from different cruise lines, but it is difficult be sure that the reviews or even the website are done by professionals or amateurs.

The book I use for good unbiased information is the Berlitz CompleteGuide to Cruising and Cruise Ships. This book gives you the histories of all the cruise line from Carnival Cruise Lines to the smaller European river cruises. In a convenience format, it will help you choose your Cruise Company and ship. It also gives you tips on how to make the most of your money and avoid rip-offs. The book details the pros and cons of most cruise lines. The book is unique from most cruise books because of the details on individual cruise ships currently afloat. This is useful information since the quality your cruising experience will vary from ship to ship. They rate each ship and honestly state the strength and deficiency of each ship.

Fodor’s has a couple of books on destination cruises, The Complete Guide toEuropean Cruises and The Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises. In both books, Fodor’s gives details on what you can do in each port of call within the time constraints of the ship, usually 4-5 hours. Of concern for most cruise novices is on how to get off the ship for a port of call and get around the area. Don’t worry, these books state in the front of each chapter where the ship will be docked, how to get ashore, and transportation needs. Also the books inform you if any local currency is needed, any extra charges, and safety concerns that a cruise tourist needs to know about. In every location that they mention, the books provide a map of the country and the local area.

Don’t have time to read all these great material? The library does a smaller cruising book titled Cruising: All Questions Answered. It answers many of the basic questions like where to go, the cost, excursions, cruising companies, and others. It does a great job getting to the heart of the matter: how to have a great cruise. This book however does not detail individual ships.

Armed with this information and a destination in mind, your next cruise can be a memorable experience.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Goodbye Michael Crichton

I’ve been thinking lately about my favorite suspenseful books. One of my all-time favorites is Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. He has had some truly suspenseful stories. The blog installment is an ode to Crichton. But it is also an acknowledgement of other great writers who have the same flair for storytelling (with a lot of science).

I assume the final book by Michael Crichton is Micro. Before his death in 2008, he had written approximately a third of the story. The remaining novel was co-written by Richard Preston.  Seven graduate students, including venomologist Peter Jansen, are invited to Hawaii by Eric Jansen, Peter’s older brother, to be recruited by the mysterious Nanigan MicroTechnologies Corporation. The day before their flight, Eric is in a boating accident and presumed dead. The group goes to Hawaii to discover that Nanigan MicroTechnologies has pioneered miniaturizing machines and humans to presumably work on methods of curing disease. Unfortunately, the founder Vin Drake has found that miniaturizing machines and humans can be used to murder anyone who gets in the way. Vin Drake miniaturizes the group of grad students and abandons them in to their fate in the Hawaiian rain forest. In this micro-world, the group has to survive confrontations with giant ants, wasps and other assorted creatures. They must find a way to be returned to their normal size and stop Vin Drake from getting away with multiple murders. There is a great deal of action with a lot of scientific detail- classic Crichton.

Richard Preston has the same knack for writing as Crichton. He is the author of The Hot Zone and The Demon in the Freezer. Panic in Level 4  is a collection of 6 non-fiction stories ranging from a story about an arborist’s study of hemlock trees to a genetic condition that causes people to compulsively chew their own skin to the ebola virus. Richard Preston has an impressive ability to explain scientific events in an interesting way. He was a perfect choice to step in as coauthor of Micro.
Before the movie, there was the book- JurassicPark written by Michael Crichton. Due to the popularity of the movie, the plot is probably well-known. Scientists have discovered a way to retrieve DNA from dinosaurs and clone it. As an experiment, other scientists are invited to the dinosaur theme park. What happens next is the worst case scenario for everyone. It’s an exciting, suspenseful story about what can happen when science goes too far.

Although Michael Crichton is gone, we have one last sample of his writing in Micro. Luckily, we also have a variety of other talented authors who continue Michael Crichton’s legacy to make science suspenseful and entertaining.

Other Science Suspense Books by Michael Crichton
The Lost World

Books by Richard Preston
The Wild Trees
The Demon in the Freezer
The Cobra Event

Invasive Procedures by Orson Scott Card
Intervention by Robin Cook