Category Archives: book reviews

Mammoth Cave Revisited

mammothcave2We took down our summer display about Mammoth Cave last week. But we still have our collection in the stacks! If you’re interested in reading more about the cave and its geology and the fascinating characters who explored and exploited the cave, here’s a brief reading list of books in our collection:

Bullitt, Alexander Clark, 1807-1868
Rambles in the Mammoth Cave, during the year 1844
F 457 M2 B9 1973

Brucker, Roger W. and Watson, Richard A.
The longest cave
GB 606 M35 B78 1987

George, Angelo I.
Prehistoric mummies from the Mammoth Cave area: foundations and concepts
F 457 M2 G46 1990

Meloy, Harold
Mummies of Mammoth Cave; an account of the Indian mummies discovered in Short Cave, Salts Cave and Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
E 78 K3 M4

Murray, Robert K.
Trapped! : The story of Floyd Collins
GB 601.6 C64 M87 1982

Panton, J. Hoyes (James Hoyes), 1847-1898.
The Mammoth Cave of Kentucky
GB 606 M35 P368

Phoenix, Mike
The complete cave trilogy : exploration and exploitation of Mammoth Cave in the 19th century
PS 3616 H64 C65 2012

Double Drop by H.A. Hurtt

doubledropLooking to hole up with a cave thriller? This just in: Double Drop by H.A. Hurtt!

“When cave researchers uncover a connection between the death of a friend and the desecration of an exquisite Sierra Nevada cavern, they become pawns in a plot to replace the FBI with a Blackwater-styled security firm. The end-game plays out in the labyrinth of California’s longest cave.”

The Complete Cave Trilogy by Mike Phoenix

Village of the Invalids
Part Three: Village of the Invalids by Mike Phoenix

The Complete Cave Trilogy : exploration and exploitation of Mammoth Cave in the 19th century by Mike Phoenix, is one of a handful of fictionalized accounts of Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave and its renowned explorer and guide, Stephen Bishop. Part One: A Peculiar Education covers; Part Two: Between Worlds; Part Three: The Village of the Invalids.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mammoth Cave, the cave has a varied history as a saltpeter mine, hideout, hospital, national park, and home to endangered animals, but is also an example of the tradition of cave exploration and stewardship by African Americans.

Visit the Walter Geology Library and see our display of Mammoth Cave books and popular cave tours!

Mike Phoenix has another set of books- The Complete Jesus in Space Trilogy. The icon for Jesus in Space is a Jesus fish, head turned upward, like a rocket blasting off into space.


Before asteroids hit the earth…

Last Policeman
Last Policeman by Ben Winters

… you should read the Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters.  The final installment, World of Trouble, was published this summer. The Last Policeman introduces Detective Hank Palace who continues to solve crimes even though asteroid 2011GV1 is due to annihilate the earth as we know it in six months.


If you’re not familiar with Ben H. Winters, he has an eclectic body of work, ranging from middle-school mysteries (The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman) to classic embellishments (Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters) to horror (Bedbugs).

Read this summer! We’ve been regularly adding to our GeoFiction reading lists and will soon highlight books for the caver in you.

Demon duck of doom!

MegafaunaI wish that I had come up with the nickname for Bullockornis planei, an extinct flightless bird, but I didn’t. Speaking of megafauna from a different part of the world, the Geology Library recently added Megafauna : giant beasts of Pleistocene South America by Richard A. Fariña, Sergio F. Vizcaíno, and Gerry De Iuliis at call number QE  881 M475 2013 Geology Library.

More extinct, revived, rediscovered, time-traveling creatures!

Megalodon JawsDinosaurs are not the only extinct creatures to capture the imagination in geoscience fiction. We have strange sharks, birds, and cats! Plus some plesiosaurs and marine reptiles! Here are some more cryptozoological thrillers:

Megalodons or Ginormous Extinct Sharks:

The ARC by Paul Rudd
Meg series by Steve Alten
Extinct by Charles Wilson
Megalodon Lives by Flash Rex
Monster Shark: Umira the Accursed by Stephen D. Sullivan
Midnight Sea by B. Luciano Barsuglia
The Pacifica by C.M. Loomis
Titanic QED by Catt Dahman
Megalodon by Robin Brown

Smilodons or Sabre-toothed tigers:

Smilodon by Alan Nayes
Fatalis by Jeff Rovin
The Valley by William Meikle (featuring other prehistoric creatures)


The Flock by James Robert Smith

Marine creatures:

The Crater by David D. Holt
Loch Ness by Donovan Galway
Monster: a tale of Loch Ness by Jeffrey Konvitz
Liopleurodon King of the Carnivores by Michael Zucker

Dinosaur Thrills!

When I first started compiling a list of fiction related to geoscience, I had no idea how many fictional dinosaur books there were nor how many common ways authors found of introducing dinosaurs into the story to thrill readers. Here’s how some authors brought dinosaurs to life, with example titles. Beware, there are many thematic cross-overs!Dinosaur

Dinosaur point-of-view

These stories are told from the dinosaur’s perspective and may or may not include interactions with humans. This category includes the possibility that dinosaurs are aliens or that aliens are dinosaurs.

Raptor Red by Robert Bakker
Dinosaur Wars by Thomas Hopp
Far-Seer by Robert J. Sawyer
Fossil Hunter by Robert J. Sawyer
Foreigner by Robert J. Sawyer

Re-discovered dinosaurs

Dinosaurs never died out completely. Some dinosaurs lived on in hard-to-find places or evolved into something unexpected.

Dinosaur Summer by Greg Bear
The Land that Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
West of Eden by Harry Harrison
Winter in Eden by Harry Harrison
Return to Eden by Harry Harrison
Dinosaur Planet by Anne McCaffrey
Dinosaur Planet Survivors by Anne McCaffrey

Revived dinosaurs

Scientists decided it was a good idea to recreate some of the most terrifying creatures that ever roamed the earth.

Carnivore by Leigh Clark
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Bone Wars by Brett Davis
Two Tiny Claws by Brett Davis
Carnosaur by Harry Adam Knight

Time-warp loopholes

Humans travel back in time, dinosaurs travel forward in time, or a rift in the fabric of the time-space continuum causes a jumbled timeline that has dinosaurs and humans existing at the same time.

Footprints of Thunder by James F. David
Dinosaur Thunder  by James F. David
Thunder of Time  by James F. David
Cretaceous Dawn by Lisa M. Graziano
Hell Creek by Lisa M. Graziano
Cretaceous Sea by Will Hubble
Sea of Time by Will Hubble
Safari World by Dale Martin
End of an Era by Robert J. Sawyer
The Dechronization of Sam Magruder by George Gaylord Simpson
Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick

Reality Now Rare

On my way to work in morning, I walk past a sign that advertises “Reality Pros.” No wait, that’s “Realty Pros.” Realty professionals manage property, not reality.

Although the roots and meanings for reality and realty overlap, I’m much more interested in questions concerning:

reality– Real existence; what is real rather than imagined or desired; the aggregate of real things or existences; that which underlies and is the truth of appearances or phenomena.- OED


realty– a. The quality of being real, reality; real existence. Cf. reality n. 1, 2a. Now rare.- OED

rather than

realty b. Law. As a mass noun: real property (cf. real adj.2 7c); (now chiefly U.S.) real estate. Freq. attrib.OED

In compiling a reading list for geoscience fiction, I discovered a number of books and films about dangerous sea creatures with lethally sharp teeth.


If a book summary describes a monster lurking in the murky depths and is tagged under the category of cryptozoology, how do I decide if a book concerns science (reality) or fantasy (legend)? Are these sea creatures extinct sharks or megalodons? Sometimes in popular science fiction, even legendary creatures are recipients of scientific explanations and eat Scully’s dog Queequeg. The definition of cryptozoology encompasses a wide range of the real and imagined.

Cryptozoology: The study of unknown, legendary, or extinct animals whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated.

I would gladly hire the services of a reality pro to interpret vague plot summaries and to distinguish between extinct animals such as megalodons and cryptids such as the Loch Ness monster.

The universe within : discovering the common history of rocks, planets, and people by Neil Shubin

The Universe Within by Neil Shubin has just arrived! By the author of Your Inner Fish, this is a light, fun read, with a variety of anecdotes about time, the universe, world travel, science, and scientists. Good for browsing or reading straight through on a lazy afternoon. The mini biographies that pepper the book are tantalizing, e.g. the “Harvard Computers,” women astronomers who collected raw data and worked to interpret them.

Petrogypsies by Rory Harper

Petrogypsies coverGeoscience factor: Petroleum

Bonus science: Symbiosis

Rating: 7

Before there were cowboys and aliens, there was Rory Harper’s vision of roughnecks and aliens. Petrogypsies is the story of the machinery and machinations of how the early oil industry could have been. Our hero, Henry Lee McFarland, is a naive farmboy who joins a troupe of oil-divining gypsies as they travel the South searching for the next big oil strike. Along the way, McFarland learns about drilling, calculus, aliens, and even love.

I got a kick out of this book, not least because of the Texas-inspired personalities and landscapes. While other readers might groan, I can appreciate outrageous but well-written tales that feature strapping young lads and other campy stereotypes. À chacun son goût.

I recommend Petrogypsies for a fun, summer-time read.