Book Reviews: January 1992


Modern Primitives
ReSearch Publications

Probably the most well-known and provocative of the ReSearch works is Modern Primitives. This book is often passed by for its literary value and passed around like so much pornography. While the written pieces and photos have their shock value, the point of this work is to understand the actions of a subculture of humankind; the one connecting thread throughout all the ReSearch publications. 

Modern Primitives explores the limits of body modification, delving into person’s who are involved in body piercing, tattooing and scarification. There are also side-trips into the world of the underground S&M society, as well as an intensive study of Fakir, a man who has taken body modification its utmost limits. A world that has been kept in the dark and looked upon as anomalous, comes right into the bright light and is exposed for understanding or judgement—whichever you choose. 

While the title seems a contradiction, these practices of body modification are ancient in origin and have been practiced by humanity for untold numbers of years. Many of these practices—tattooing, piercing and scarification—are ritualistic in nature and were possibly religiously or spiritually motivated. Even now those who practice them have personal reasons and receive their own inner gratification in doing so. In many ways it is the catharsis of pain as well as a way to enhance one’s personal appearance and sense of self worth. Whatever the reasons, this book talks frankly with those involved in these practices and the reader gains some great insight and a better understanding of these practices. 

Some of the better known subjects of this book are Genesis and Paula P’Orridge of Psychic TV, Don Ed Hardy, editor of Tattootime, Monte Cazazza and Jim Ward, who is heavily involved in the publication Piercing Fans International Quarterly. These are experts on the subject matter either from personal experience or from years of involvement and research in these fields. 

If you have a real interest in body modification or even a fascination with these experiences then pick up a copy of Modern Primitives and enjoy the highly revealing aspects of this publication as well as the interesting photos which accompany the various articles. It will open your eyes!

Jurassic Park
Michael Crichton

For those of us who loved dinosaurs as youngsters and never quite gave up on the giant reptiles, author Michael Crichton has created a dandy Christmas present: Jurassic Park.

Building on the premise of possible cloning of dinosaurs via DNA extraction from fossils, Crichton posits that scientific interests would be overriden by commercial and capitalistic ventures. In fact, the lure of creating a kind of Disneyland with dinosaurs is irresistible for the fictitious InGen Corporation and its eccentric head, John Hammond.

Around this central idea, Crichton weaves a fascinating tale that mixes entertainment, scathing criticism of modern-day science’s willingness to prostitute itself to powerful economic interests, and wonderful history, geography and scientific information and cutting edge ideas like chaos theory. As usual, the author manages to combine these diverse elements into a delightful whole, never getting preachy or boring. 

In addition, Crichton throws in some of his strongest characterizations to date; all to powerful effect. Crichton’s heroes are very ordinary, flawed humans. thus, when tension builds, the reader is that much more involved. The elements used create such powerful and plausible situations that the story becomes compelling and vivid—the novel is nearly impossible to put down. 

Much of the plot this writer is reluctant to reveal because the element of surprise and excitement should be left to the reader. But it can be revealed that things start to go very wrong in the experimental “park” and progress uncontrollably when InGen flies experts in just to investigate what has gone wrong with Hammond’s idea. Crichton’s protagonist amidst all this is Paleontologist Alan Grant, a very likable and believable hero. 

The result of all this is a reading experience that is suspenseful, engrossing and more than just a bit thoughtful. For example, while on the surface it may appear that cloning dinosaurs is an entirely possible event, the problems associated with creating a survivable environment for the animals are enormous. Aside from this, the moral and ethical considerations are staggering: should genetically engineered creatures be studied or available for dull-witted human entertainment? Coupled with very realistic implications that companies are willing to compromise human safety for economic gain, the book delves into some meaty topics.

If there is some bad news in all of this, it’s that over-blown movie mogul Steven Spielberg has optioned the novel for a movie, rather than author Crichton, whose West World was similar and wonderful excursion. Nevertheless, Jurassic Park should stand on its own as a superlative mainstream novel and Crichton’s best work since Congo. Indeed, modern writers should be encouraged to go beyond ordinary melodramatics and go for the rewards to be gained by adding some thought and ideas in with creative formula. Michael Crichton remains one of the foremost practitioners of the thoughtful approach. This book is a delight.

For more from the SLUG Archives:
Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy
The Art of Body Piercing