Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Review: Dragon Teeth


Dragon Teeth
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

Michael Crichton's recently discovered novel—an adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America’s western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition.  But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions.  With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William’s newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West’s most notorious characters.
 


I've loved Jurassic Park since I was a kid, I remember watching it on Sundays whenever it was on and eating apple, mostly it would be on at Easter and despite owning the video and then DVD....I'd always watch it. I pretty much know most of the lines! I was wary of Jurassic World..but actually ended up really enjoying it too. I've been meaning to buy and read the original Jurassic Park books for a while but haven't quite gotten around to it yet, so....this is my first Michael Crichton book! 

I recently read a book by another author that was based on the Bone Wars, and my curiosity has since been piqued about that period of history and those events. I was super excited to read this because I figured it was likely to be more historically accurate and full of more history than the other book I read...and I was right! I completely loved this, and I breezed through it in one sitting. 

Dragon Teeth is fast paced and absolutely packed with historical detail and fact. But all of that is woven in to the narrative and it's so well done that it's not like history is being shoved down your throat and it doesn't affect the pace of the book at all. I was absolutely fascinated, not just with the events of the book...but with the parts that where true, and the historical figures and all the tiny little historical details that you wouldn't think twice about. This book has clearly been well researched and it made it such an authentic read. Perhaps he got a hankering to write this book after doing Westworld and Jurassic Park...I don't know. I'm not familiar with the publication order of his books and films etc. 

There's plenty of intrigue to keep you reading, it's vivid and draws you in. I got completely caught up in the adventure and action of the book. I genuinely had a moment or two, especially at the beginning, when I couldn't quite work out if it was all real or not, I had to double check that Johnson didn't actually exist! I was intrigued to find out that one of the other characters, Sternberg, did though...and that he had published a book about the trip Cope takes in this book...although obviously that trip has been tweaked and changed for the purposes of this story. 

While I liked the science, seeing the process of how the bones where found, excavated, kept safe to travel, catalogued and put together and so on....I loved the characters. The characters really made this story memorable for me, along with the historical detail and so on. We had Johnson, a fictional character who goes on quite a journey in this book. I really enjoyed seeing him grow and change and mature over the course of the book as he goes from a pampered rich boy to being able to fend for himself. He has to battle to get home, facing a dangerous journey, not just because of the overly bleak and deadly landscape but because of the Indian wars going on at the time, various nefarious characters and other obstacles, natural or otherwise. Johnson becomes quite the hero, more so on the way back than on the way there, despite facing the trials and tribulations of the journey there. 

We have Cope and Marsh, who are vastly different to each other. I have to say...I'm team Cope. I wanted to punch Marsh in the face more than once, I'm not going to lie.  He's so paranoid and he kept trying to sabotage Cope over and over, even going so far as to poison water. Cope...well I could let him off having a temper because I'd be pretty pissed off at Marsh's constant sabotage and trouble making and attempts to buy or steal bones instead of doing the work himself. Cope seemed the more honest, and hard working of the two and he really helped Johnson after Marsh abandons him. I'm intrigued to read more about Cope and Marsh. I was actually annoyed to learn at the end of the book that Marsh 'discovered' more Dinosaurs than Cope...I can't help but wonder if he managed all of them honestly. I'm going to have to buy Sternberg's book and read it because the notes at the end of the book said the feud had actually been toned down and I'm curious! 

We also have Wyatt Earp, I had to google him. I had to. I wasn't sure if he was a real character or not and then when I got to the end and there was his little mini auto biography I had to google him to see it was true..even though it was pretty obvious! I had been surprised to see Sternberg was real too! I'd assumed the only real people in the book where Cope and Marsh...but anyway. Mind blown by Earp's life story. I actually really liked him, he became quite the friend to Johnson! Along with the memorable characters I liked...there where also the memorable characters I hated. Marsh. The Curry brothers. The annoying, suspicious woman who's name escapes me now I've finished the book...she had two names anyway! 

Dragon Teeth is a rollercoaster of a read that I guarantee you'll be able to devour in one sitting. Crichton really brings the West to life, with saloons, gunfights, and desolate, dangerous landscapes. There's history in every page, the book has clearly been well researched. There's a lot of information about the various Indian tribes, and how they where treated, and the wars between the Tribes and the US Military. Let's just say the US weren't painted in a flattering light in this book, and I can't say I'm sorry about that. I was pleased Crichton didn't try to gloss over or hide how badly the Native Americans where treated by the US Government and Military and so on. It was horrendous and should be portrayed as such. 

After reading this book, I definitely have the urge to read up on Marsh and Cope and the time period, and do some research of my own! Not to mention actually get around to getting copies of Jurassic Park and reading them! Crichton really brought the Bone Wars, the West and the historical figures featured in the book to life and I was riveted from the first page. 


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