James Gurney, Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time (Harper Collins Publishers, 1992)
James Gurney, Dinotopia: The World Beneath (Harper Collins Publishers, 1995)
James Gurney studied anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley and art at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He has been fascinated with dinosaurs since he was a child. From these three passions -- anthropology, art and dinosaurs -- sprang Dinotopia.
The story begins in Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time. It is 1862. Widowed Arthur Denison and his son Will are shipwrecked in a storm. Dolphins save them and bring them to a secret continent where sentient dinosaurs had hidden underground to survive the global catastrophe that wiped out most of their kind. In recent millennia, they have been joined by the survivors of shipwrecks, rescued by the dolphins. Together, reptiles and mammals have created a marvelous civilization, to which the Denisons must adapt. Treacherous reefs and storms bar any escape from Dinotopia.
Their tale continues in Dinotopia: The World Beneath. Arthur Denison briefly visited the caverns beneath the continent in A Land Apart from Time. Now he goes back, accompanied by other explorers, and solves several of the riddles of Dinotopia's existence. Will remains aboveground, continuing his apprenticeship as a skybax rider.
These are true graphic novels. The intricate illustrations do not just complement the text, the complete it, and some elements of the story are told only through the illustrations. In an inspired touch, no page spread ends in the middle of a sentence, so there is never a need to read ahead to finish the thought and miss a picture. (Readers of the Green Man Review may be interested in a picture of the Green Man himself on page 65 of The World Beneath.)
A Land Apart from Time is written in the first person. After a brief introduction by James Gurney explaining the origin of Dinotopia, as well as how he found the notebook, the story is told through journal entries by both Denisons. Dinotopia: The World Beneath is told in the third person. I found the language in The World Beneath to be simpler, more suited for a younger reader, than that in A Land Apart from Time, but neither volume is exactly difficult to read.
There is a third book by James Gurney, Dinotopia: First Flight, set in the distant past. Also, Gurney worked as an artist in the movie and paperback fantasy cover fields, and he invited several fantasy writers into his world. They have written 16 digest novels for young readers (Windchaser by Scott Ciencin; River Quest by John Vornholt; Hatchling by Midori Snyder; Lost City by Scott Ciencin; Sabertooth Mountain by John Vornholt; Thunder Falls by Scott Ciencin; Firestorm by Gene De Weese; The Maze by Peter David; The Rescue Party by Mark A. Garland; Sky Dance by Scott Ciencin; Chomper by Don Glut; Return to Lost City by Scott Ciencin; Survive by Brad Strickland; The Explorers by Scott Ciencin; Dolphin Watch by John Vornholt; and Oasis by Cathy Hapka) and two adult novels (Hand of Dinotopia and Dinotopia Lost by Alan Dean Foster). Dinotopia has also been adapted into audio format and for TV (a movie and a mini-series). I have not read or seen any of these, so I can't comment on how close they are to Gurney's vision of Dinotopia.
For a closer look at this fascinating world, visit the Dinotopia Web site. Gurney is very generous about allowing the use of his images on fan sites.
[Faith J. Cormier]