The January 2013 of ImagineFX magazine has a review of the
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Jurassic Lark: James Gurney’s palaeontological masterpiece receives a welcome reissue
Just as Steven Spielberg resurrected dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, James Gurney’s classic Dinotopia: The World Beneath has been reanimated by those good folks at Dover Publications. The process didn’t require DNA and dodgy science, though. Instead, the book’s been tarted up and reprinted with a new introduction and afterword.
If you’ve not come across Dinotopia before (which surely makes you a cultural dinosaur), it’s a seminal work, combining Renaissance man Gurney’s abilities as a storyteller and an artist. The World Beneath is, in fact, the 1995 sequel to A Land Apart from Time, which was published three years earlier and received a similarly lush reprint last year. Both concern the titular continent, in which humans and dinosaurs coexist.
In The World Beneath, Gurney tells the story of Professor Denison, A Land Apart from Time’s original protagonist. Denison decides to investigate the mysterious caves beneath Dinotopia, which promises ancient technology and machines. He’s accompanied by his son Will and a fiery human Dinotopian named Oriana Nascava, as well as Bix, a friendly Protoceratops.
What’s so utterly inspiring about Gurney’s books is how detailed and well-researched the world is, and he even goes so far as to include maps and diagrams of places and items. Palaeontologist M.K. Brett-Surman — a consultant to Gurney — contributes a foreword, stating that Dinotopia’s artwork is not “for a ‘kiddie’ book on dinosaurs, but a series of masterworks suitable for any museum!”
ImagineFX hero James, it seems, can turn his hand to just about anything in the world of Dinotopia. His characters are distinctive, and Dinotopia’s cities and environments were rich and steampunky before the term was coined. But the dinosaurs take centre stage, at once proud and primal, and — apparently — anatomically correct.
Gurney’s new afterword is worth the cover price alone, even if you own the original publication, for its insights. As well as sketches and colour scripts, he created maquettes of the dinosaurs, characters, and buildings to deliver the correct proportions and postures.
The World Beneath was followed by three more volumes, all of which deserve a similarly rich edition. It also inspired a well-received TV series and made-for-TV film, but the books are still the best starting place. And while kiddies will enjoy them, they’re stunning and inspiring for any artist.
Order Dinotopia: The World Beneath: 20th Anniversary Edition signed by the artist