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The Katurran Odyssey

Discussion in 'TV, Movies, Books about Zoos & Wildlife' started by PossumRoach, 25 Apr 2021.

  1. PossumRoach

    PossumRoach Well-Known Member

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    Before I start, I want to thank @twilighter for inspiring me to make a review by uploading a picture of the book to the gallery. I wasn’t sure on what I wanted to review on what might be fluctuating series on animal related media. I also want to thank @Dyl0526 and @Wyman for proofreading and pointing out any mistakes.

    The Katurran Odyssey is a book written by creature designer Terryl Whitlatch and screen writer David Micheal Wieger. Whitlatch’s work is more recognized since she designed creatures for Star Wars including (my favorite charecter) JarJar Binks. Whitlatch also gives classes on creature design. According to IMBD Wieger is known for writing for two movies with only being credited for one of them. The book was first published in 2004 by Simon and Schuster and later got republished in around 2017-2018 by Design Studio Press. While getting a fairly high score from Goodreads, The Katurran Odyssey isn’t as recognized by a lot of people let alone animal fans. Other than a handful of zoochatters, the only person who recognized the book when I brought it up was a friend of a coworker who came to a fundraiser. This lack of recognition blows because if you check the archived website of the Katurran Odyssey, you can see how excited the authors and publishers were and it was stated that they worked on this book for 5 years and they even had a musical score made for it by Jeff Johnson and Brian Dunning. If you dig deeper on the website (or the title page of the first print) you could tell that there were plans to make sequels for the book which I believe was canceled due to the book being snubbed by the general audience. So, I will make a review to see if this book was good or if people were right to snub this book.*

    Let’s start with the low hanging fruit, the illustrations. They are the main aspect of the book that sells to the audience while there are some pencil strokes that look awkward when you look close those strokes won’t matter when you take a few steps back and see the whole picture(s) which is the most beautiful one could see in a children’s book from the 21st century. If your love for animals goes farther than ABC animals, you will find yourself hooked on the landscapes and even hunt for details such as smaller animals or shackles. The book is also adorned with filler images on the sides of most pages effectively filling empty spaces with the residents of the world of Katurra. The only issue I have found with the drawings is that not only the glyptodonts were huge, their size wasn’t consistent. Another issue was how Katook’s proportions were off on some pages. Other wise the illustrations are a great eye candy. Here's a couple example of one of these drawings, hopefully not giving away any spoilers.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Credit goes to Terryl Whitlatch for both illustrations

    Before I look over the nitty gritty of the book I should also discuss the variety of wildlife shown in the book. To simply out it there is a bombastic variety of animals. The book includes both living and extinct animals. As a person who thinks that extinct animals other than Mesozoic dinosaurs always get overshadowed, seeing a great variety of non-Mesozoic dinosaurs did put a smile on my face (there was a plesiosaur and rhamphorhyncid shown). Even in scenes where there isn’t a crowd of animals, you will spot animals on nooks and crannies. There’s also one catastrophic mystery beast we don’t get to see its face. This creature isn’t revealed to the readers either because it’s up to the reader to decide if it is a giant brachiosaurus or a 50 feet fossah or because the explanation is meant for the sequel which may never exist.

    The following paragraphs will contain spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled, skip these paragraphs until you see a picture of Katook.

    The plot follows Katook, a ringed-tailed who gets exiled from his village after witnessing corruption done by the priests and getting cursed (?) by his people’s deity. After helping a mother sea turtle, Katook goes to the mainland of the world of Katurra and starts his quest to find other lemurs. After some hijinks at a bazaar, Katook finds a haughty Quagga named Quigga who got lost from his herd and together the came across several unique simian societies where Katook learns something new which would help him advance in his journey. Katook and Quigga also face challenges such as predators, natural elements, and greedy golden snub-nosed monkeys who enslave the duo. When I first read the book I found the twist pretty shocking. However, anybody who has watched more than enough Pixar movies might be able to sense the plot-twist chapters before it is revealed. Otherwise, while it is not the most superb or groundbreaking plot a fantasy novel could be, the plot is decent in my opinion.

    Katook the ringed-tailed lemur is the protagonist story, and therefore the story focused on his thoughts more than Quigga’s. We see him learning from the other cultures and grow through his journey. Katook’s greatest growth was that he became a risk taker. From a lost lemur who didn’t know what to do and unintentionally helped thieves, Katook was able take great risks such as escaping an armed palace or return to his village even if it meant that he would be killed for it. At the same time Katook still wanted to be around other lemurs even after being angrily lectured by a patas monkey chieftain that the animals in this world re not that different. They all have the same thirst, hunger, joy and pain. This lesson shouldn’t be forgettable considering that the chieftain nicked the lemur’s ear. However, when Katook was dumped to a cage full of non-lemurs he was more concerned about where the lemurs were rather than the fact that he was prisoned (then again he was betrayed before being.) Despite my confusion of Katook’s desire to be with lemurs, this aspect shows Katook’s determination to reach his goals.

    Quigga the quagga is the other protagonist of the book. He is introduced as a vain character who often makes off-handed comments. Throughout the story he still does even to those who saved him. When I first read the book I wasn’t able to see any other developments to his charecter. However, Quigga’s relation with his friend does change starting by the time they face their first danger, which Quigga lets his friend ride on his back despite not letting him do it before. Another example is when Quigga confesses Katook his flaws which I believe he wouldn’t do to anyone else.

    There are a lot of side characters in the story from an odd duo of thieves to a princess who defied her society’s creed. The great number of side characters may make it difficult for most people to remember all of them let alone their names. However, many of them play an important part in Katook’s journey. There’s the society of the Koloboo (colobus), who value knowledge above everything (and I mean everything) else, who helped Katook draw a path for his journey. There’s the nomadic Patah (patas monkeys) who live as one with the stars, who teach Katook navigation using stars. There’s the spiritual Boskiis (proboscis monkeys) who assure Katook that he is not cursed and aid him spiritually on his journey. And there’s the Golden (snub-nosed) Monkeys who are so blinded by their power they fail to see compassion and the consequence of their hubris. One side character who seems to have development is Gamic, who is an aye-aye head priest in Katook’s island. Gamic was a devout follower of his respective deity, which never became rewarding for him which is probably why he probably stopped caring to the point where he and other priests eat the offerings to the deity. Katook’s encounter with the deity (along with witnessing the laundering of figs) made Gamic jealous which is why he banished Katook from his tribe. Gamic knows that his actions are bad, to the point that he lost is sleep after he thought that his henchmen finished off Katook.

    The spoilers end here.
    [​IMG]

    Credit goes to Terryl Whitlatch

    If you want to see a new fantasy world that feels like a breath of fresh air (compared to other works of fantasies that are filled with elves, orcs, and dragons) then this is a book you will want to give a chance. While the writing is not spectacular the story is still enjoyable. Even if you don’t read the story, you can have this book for your coffee table to look at and enjoy the illustrations. Even if you don’t want this book, you can buy this for your children, your relatives, your local orphanage. I believe that this book can win hearts for animals dead and alive which is why I think that it should be in the lives of more people.

    *Uh-oh spaghetti-oh: Assuming that the audiences snubbed the book wasn’t exactly right. According to the video I saw during writing my first draft (linked below), the lack of attention this book has was a regime change at the publisher. Simon and Schuster first accepted the concept of TKO since it was pitched as “Dinotopia with fur”. Things change when the head of publishing, who backed the book, decided to work for another company. As a result, under ne the book got published with very little promotion and very little support from the publisher. The books got remaindered within eight weeks. There are still attempts to publish the book, but it isn’t easy. The video also has some scrapped concept art and story boards along with the sad story of the Dinotopia movie.

    There doesn’t seem to be any sign of a sequel any time soon. But I have hope considering that the book got translated to Japanese which does indicate that there is an interest in the international market.


     
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  2. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    I found 'Katurran Odyssey' by chance and loved it, and also given it to my nephews.

    It is a good, original story, but especially good are illustrations. It is a showcase of the art of painting animals. The author lectures in an art school, although she may be more known as designer of some creatures from 'Star Wars'. We see a procession of lesser known species - indris, quaggas and blue morpho butterflies took place of typical children book rabbits, bears and dogs. Every page is full of animals, there must be about half a thousand species illustrated. All right, ring-tailed lemur and fossa became known much later in a cartoon franchise.

    I also see it as an example of how current big media corporations are dangerous to creativity and society. People watch endless low quality sequels of few big-bucks franchises from Disney or Warner Bros, but much better, more original and more creative works like Katurran Odyssey are unknown, because they cannot break through the noise of expensive marketing campaigns.

    Question: how many animals illustrated in Katurran Odyssey can you identify? All are real species, from golden-crowned sifaka to goblin shark. All are distinctive and recognizable. I doubt anybody, even a zoologist, can name all without checking.
     
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  3. PossumRoach

    PossumRoach Well-Known Member

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    Not realy, There's one species that is definitely not real, one that doesn't look like how it should be (the glyptodons), and one that I am not sure if it exists.

    That is very true. According to the interview I posted, they tried to republish the story but since the publishing history was gone, most publishers refused to publish the book on the basis of its publication history rather than the product and the merit of the author and artist. Says a lot about our society,
     
  4. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    Somewhere in the book (on the cover?) the author says that all animals are real species and all but one (hint, hint) are approximately true to their respective sizes.

    The gigantic animal which appears in the golden monkey city is
    the fossa god itself. He intervenes to allow the hero to escape and snub the noses of monkeys (pun intended) that there is something greater than them. We see the fossa again later in the vision of the paradise, he is how sympathetic and much smaller, but still larger than all the other animals.
     
  5. PossumRoach

    PossumRoach Well-Known Member

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    To my knowledge the winged chameleons by Gamic were the unreal animals. I am yet to see evidence that proves that glyptodons can be three times the size of oryxes. I also don't think that periwinkle hyacinth macaws exist even with selective breeding