Tag Archives: Science

Zoo: The Graphic Novel

Animals the world over are setting their sights on fresh prey–man. Only biologist Jackson Oz has recognized the patterns in the escalating chain of violent attacks by animals against mankind. And these incidents are just the prelude to something far, far more terrifying. Now Oz is in a race against nature to try to warn humanity about the coming catastrophe. But is it already too late?!

Zoo: The Graphic NovelZoo
Written by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge; Art and Adaptation by Andy MacDonald
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Thriller
Price: $25.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Yen Press has enjoyed a decent success with James Patterson-penned books, and Zoo: The Graphic Novel takes that formula and moves it up to the next level with a title in a deluxe hardcover format and story that could have been ripped from the headlines. While the story brings up some very interesting ideas, that doesn’t keep it from stumbling here and there.

Zoo follows evolutionary biologist Jackson Oz, a man on the fast track at Columbia University until he throws it all away for a pet theory that no one believes. HAC, or Human Animal Conflict, is the theory that different animals around the world were becoming hyper-aggressive toward humans. With little to no support, Oz is on his own, but when male lions start hunting humans together, other scientists start to take notice. It takes a long time to gather evidence and get people’s attention, but it isn’t until pets are affected that it’s really taken seriously.

Zoo is a science thriller, in the vein of Jurassic Park, and is much more thriller than science. It takes a lot of time to build up, as Oz races between Africa, Washington DC and New York, trying to get people to listen to him. Once he finally does get both the scientific community and government to support his research, it’s still another 5 years with no real answer in sight. The tension continues to grow, with the attacks becoming more frequent, and Oz having to keep going to meetings to keep convincing government officials the problem is real. It finally hits home when HAC reaches our own pets; mainly dogs. Presumably cats too, but they are never shown.

All of the attacks and posturing takes up most of the volume. The science is relegated to a small part near the end, but it’s really the most interesting part. Environmental change is responsible, just not in the way no one was expecting. It’s not global warming, but it does relate to the increased use of petroleum products and cell phone radiation. Humans are not only affected by the change in a way similar to the animals, but they are also responsible for it.

Here’s where I start to have problems with the story. The first reaction to the news is a typical knee-jerk military “bomb everything” solution that does nothing to solve it. When the solution is finally given, and it seems to work for 5 days; just 5 days, everyone just assumes the emergency is over and it’s back to business as usual? Really? People are shown what works and they just throw it out after less than a week because it’s inconvenient? I found this twist in the part down right problematic. I know people can be dumb, and there will be people who don’t want to be inconvenienced, but I think this part just crossed the line in underestimating people.

The other problem I had was with the subplot. Oz was caring for a chimpanzee, Atilla, he rescued from a lab that was experimenting on him. Oz spends all of his time running around the globe, and completely ignoring the “wild” animal in his own apartment that was starting to display the same symptoms. He blames himself for his ex-girlfriend’s death at Atilla’s hands, and well he should, though not for the reason he thought. Atilla is shown torn between his relationship with Oz and his instincts. If Oz had just paid him a little more attention, he may have seen the signs earlier, and Oz may even have been able to help him find an answer. Instead, the ex-girlfriend is offed for the new girlfriend to become wife and mother, so Atilla can show he still cares for Oz near the end.

The art is in black and white and more realistic in its renderings. The attack scenes are fairly graphic, though there aren’t too many body parts left strewed around. At least no intestines are shown hanging out. A nose does get spit out. The presentation is very well done, with the book being over-sized, and the paper a heavy gloss.

Overall, I did enjoy Zoo. It was a good thriller with some fascinating science behind it. Oz takes the typical stance that science isn’t to blame, but thankfully also doesn’t look for anywhere else to point fingers. He lays it right out that humanity is to blame for their problems, but the end seems to imply we won’t learn from our mistakes, and I think that’s the wrong stand to take.  Humanity’s strength has always been to learn and adapt, and even if it means two steps back before a step forward, we would find a way.

Wonderful Life with the Elements

In this super periodic table, every element is a unique character whose properties are represented visually: heavy elements are fat, man-made elements are robots, and noble gases sport impressive afros. Every detail is significant, from the length of an element’s beard to the clothes on its back. You’ll also learn about each element’s discovery,its common uses, and other vital stats like whether it floats–or explodes–in water.

By Bunpei Yorifuji
Publisher: No Starch Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Science
Price: $17.95

I first learned about this title through the manga reviews column in Otaku USA. I found the visuals and concept so intriguing, that I jumped at the chance to review it myself! I’d always found Chemistry interesting, and with my oldest daughter currently taking the class, it seemed a good opportunity. Wonderful Life with the Elements didn’t disappoint. It was fun, educational, and rather thought-provoking.

What stands out first and foremost about Wonderful Life with the Elements is it isn’t a traditional manga. There’s no story to follow with the science incorporated like the Manga Guide series. It’s really more of an illustrated book, with the illustrations telling just as much, if not more, as the text. Yorifuji does incorporate a small narrative with his “atom man”, which is mostly seen on the dividing pages between sections and is rather cute. The book starts with graphs that show the elemental make up of our world, and how our use of the elements have changed and grown starting from prehistoric times to today.

The heart of the book is the periodic table. Yorifuji explains the reason for illustrating the table, so newcomers can not only know the names but also learn many of their properties at a glance. The way he does this, is to come up with a character that can be used to show the properties. First he creates the character’s face, which is based on the parts of an atom. It’s cute and clever. This “Atom man”, which is made very obvious from the anatomically correct way he is drawn, is then dressed up. Hair is used to show what family an element is from. Afros show the cool Noble gases. Spikes are for the volatile zinc family, and mohawks are for the nitrogen family where many poisons come from. Atomic weight is shown as body weight. Clothes show how the element is used, such as everyday use, specialty or industrial. When an element was discovered is shown as facial hair, and even the element’s matter state can be determined by the legs.

Each element is placed on a pedestal, which is usually some item that it plays in important role in. Indium, which is big in the production of LCD screens, stands on one. Gallium is the element that helps make blu-ray players and gaming machines, so he is standing on a Playstation 3. Along with each illustration is a blurb of text that explains a little about the element, and all around him are smaller pictures, showing several of the other uses. Some of these can be funny, such as with Neodymium, which was used to make the world’s strongest magnet, so there’s a picture of Neodymium’s face getting stuck to a metal pellet. Even though it isn’t stated, the poisonous elements are also differentiated with the eyes. Poisonous elements have big, empty eyes, like a ghost or skeleton, making their ominous intent obvious.

The last part of the book gets personal. It explores how our bodies are made up of the elements, and what happens when we have too much or too little of them. It will make reading the dietary information on the back of food packages a little more relevant. It also talks about how the elements are just that. These are the basic building blocks of life and the universe, and as such are finite. It emphasizes the importance of recycling these elements, especially the ones that make our modern technology possible, because if we don’t, we may not have them for much longer.

No Starch Press’ presentation of the book is very nicely done. It’s a hardback, but is just a couple of inches smaller that an average manga and just as much wider. It has a slipcover that has cheats for how the elements are represented; hair, clothes, matter states, etc. It’s a good reference when you need to be reminded what a hairstyle was for again. There is a nice ribbon bookmark attached, so you’ll never lose your place which also makes a good cat toy, at least our newest kitten thinks so. There is also a poster included, which is perfect for the classroom or display.

I really enjoyed reading Wonderful Life with the Elements. It was fun, and I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before. I may not have the memorized table from this one reading, but there are certainly some that stick out, like Neodymium, that I never knew about before. What really enthuses me about this book is how it has piqued the interest of my daughter. As I said, she is taking Chemistry, and when I showed her the review of the book, she loved the idea. And when I got a copy of the book, she said she wanted to read it too. And then show it to some of her geekier friends. And then give it to her Chemistry teacher, so he can hopefully use it in class. If it can engage kids, and make learning a fun experience, which it seems it does, then it’s a book that gets an A+ from me.

Review copy provided by publisher.


Manga Guide to the Universe

Explore our solar system, the Milky Way, and faraway galaxies with your intrepid heroines, Gloria, Kanna, and Yamane, in The Manga Guide To The Universe. Together, you’ll search out the universe’s greatest mysteries: dark matter, cosmic expansion, and the big bang itself. As you rocket across the night sky, you’ll learn about modern astrophysics and astronomy, as well as the classical findings and theories on which they’re built. You’ll even learn why some scientists believe finding extraterrestrial life is inevitable!

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The Manga Guide to Relativity

Everything’s gone screwy at Takai Academy. When the crazy Headmaster forces Minagi’s entire class to study Einstein’s theory of relativity over summer school, Minagi volunteers to go in their place. There’s just one problems: he’s never even heard of relativity before! Luckily, Minagi has the plucky Miss Uraga to teach him.

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