A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Technically, this novel would be in the Fantasy category, which IS a genre of science fiction, but since general sci fi is too much ‘men and machines’ for me and hardly any nature, this was a compromise.One of the blurbs on the cover of this book, by George R.R. Martin, no less, declares that it’s a “cross between ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Jurassic Park’.” Er, no. While I can’t speak for “Game of Thrones”, not having read or watched it, but not everything with dinosaurs in is “Jurassic Park”. A much closer analogy is the splendid “Dinotopia”, only with a more warlike attitude and less wonder on the part of the reader.
Like many fantasy novels, the time period is a vaguely Medieval era, with all of the class distinctions that entails. Dinosaurs are used as beasts of burden, farm animals and as war mounts. The setting is a place called Nueveropa, similar to Europe, “on Paradise”, which seems to be a planet that a portion of the population escaped to after fleeing “Home”, which may or not be Earth. Various territories of Nueveropa are at odds with each other and the book begins and ends with battles. Very detailed, gory battles, which had me nervously skipping pages.
Since my main interest was the dinosaurs, I was annoyed that for a long stretch in the middle of the book, dinosaurs are forgotten as the storylines follow court intrigues and preparations for war. I did learn that dinosaur hides are used for clothing and covers, similar to leather.Their feathers are added to home decor or ceremonial costumes. Various species are used as mounts for knights and along with their own body armor, are often “modified” for greater lethality, with sharpened horns and additional spikes. The duckbills are trained to give a tremelo call in unison that can disable other creatures with the audio shockwave. Women can be soldiers too, however, the only women in the book were the 2 princesses and their retinues.
Dragons also exist, but are considered a sort of flying “varmint” and killed for sport.Giant dragonflies are used in a type of falconry. I wanted more of these types of details and more info on training and herding domesticated dinos, but the author was saving the majority of his descriptions for the battle scenes, which felt like a waste. Why not play up the novelty of tame dinosaurs, instead of turning them onto live tanks? Such a narrow view was a missed opportunity to do something original.
One of the things I really did like was the excellent ink drawings of dinosaurs throughout as chapter headings, accompanied by passages from sacred books, most often “The Book of True Names”, which identifies various creatures on the planet, usually dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the descriptions and the illustrations didn’t always match, which is a sloppy oversight.
Since this was the first book in a series, it ends with several story lines unfinished. Though in some cases I am a bit curious as to what happens, the overall disappointment outweighs the curiosity and I doubt I’ll be reading any more.
Tor Books 2015 448 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0765332967