Mon 10 Jan, 2011
Tags: Book Reviews, books, dinosaurs, so bad it's bad
By Thomas Hopp, via B&N’s ebook store.
An amusing, though not quick, read follows the adventures of a rancher’s daughter who seeks to be a paleontologist, a predator reintroduction expert working for the park service, an older paleontologist with an annoying laugh, and a 65-million-year-old two-year-old hippie raptor warrior as they pass through the struggles of a returning civilization.
The basic premise behind the book is that a secret base is found in a deep crater at the south pole of the moon. When a secret expedition is launched to explore it, in typical hubris-of-man style, the astronauts reactivate the dormant millions-of-years-old machinery, which apparently starts churning out dinosaurs in a bid to retake the planet post-catastrophe. Conveniently, the aforementioned paleontologist has just found the remains of the civilization that the dominant raptor species (who set up said moon base) had once built on the shores of the North American inland sea. The plot unfolds in a predictable manner, with NORAD becoming the effective C&C center for the armed services that remain after the moon laser obliterates most of the military infrastructure.
Apparently dinosaurs got lasers.
The book very much runs on rule of cool by that point, with a sideplot regarding some JPL employees suffering from being forced to keep a secret regarding the secret moon base that their moon probe found a couple years before. There’s a spoiler to be had there, but most reasonably clever readers will likely figure it out.
That’s not to say the book is -bad-, but it does suffer from a few unfortunate difficulties. Characterization is somewhat spotty at times, with the paleontologist rancher’s daughter acting as both the Action Woman and The Chick depending on what the scene requires, almost as if she’s two people who happen to share the same name and wander around together without ever seeing each other. The predator reintroduction parallels are fairly obvious once the tyrannosaurus shows up; the fate of the ranger at the end of the book is, apparently, intended to hammer said parallels home, though the gratuitous joke about Mexican migrant workers was, I thought, in poor taste. The older paleontologist with the unlikely linguistic skills was amusing, but ultimately not very engaging. The hippie dinosaur warrior was somewhat interesting, but ultimately more or less your standard tribal shaman type in a dinosaur skin. The less said about most of the secondary characters (especially the General Ripper analogue) the better.
A word of advice to any scientifically literate readers: the second the workings of the dinosaur power systems for their mechanized armor are discussed, skip ahead a few pages–this particular author may be hot stuff about hypothetical dinosaur civilization locations and the like, but his grasp of physics is laughable, and he’s obviously not learned about which units of measurement go where. The concept of ‘powdered light’ is fun, mind, but the explanation he attempts to bring to bear as to how they do it does not have the merit of being merely wrong, but goes so far beyond wrong as to induce nausea.
The less said about the politics during the denouement the better–at least by the time you get to the end, you’ll not be expecting any sort of nuanced solutions.
On the whole, the basic premise–dinosaurs were civilized and built a moon-base to survive the K-T meteor impact, and are now attempting to retake the world–is fun and interesting. Some of the characters, too, are interesting at times; though sadly the most engaging character is a herd animal. The non-paleontology science and the representations of political and military structures are simplistic at best and screamingly bad at worst–at least the tank crew appears to have been lifted from an old movie, rather than invented wholesale like his physics alterations. The biggest merit that this book had, to my mind, was that it was inexpensive and that it had a coherent enough narrative for casual train reading.