Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cretaceous Dawn by L.M. Graziano and M.S.A. Graziano (2008)

Cover blurb

Enter the world of the predatory dinosaurs… if you dare.

A physics lab accident hurls four-and-a-half people and a dog 65 million years through time to the end of the Age of the Dinosaurs. Paleontologist Julian Whitney and his companions have one chance for rescue: a thousand-mile journey through the dinosaur-infested wilderness to a hypothetical reversion point. Meanwhile present-day police chief Sharon Earles tries to solve the mystery of half a corpse where five people had been moments before. Physicists are brought in to determine what went wrong. But can they get the lab running in time to retrieve the missing people… and do they want to?

My thoughts

Yariko Miyakara is “a crack young physicist,” we learn in the opening line of Cretaceous Dawn, but she is at a loss to explain why beetles keep materializing in her experiment to measure gravitons. She calls in paleontologist Julian Whitney to identify the insects, believing he is someone she can trust, and he quickly deduces the bugs have been extinct for millions of years. They decide to run the experiment again to see if they can make more of the beetles materialize. Instead, the lab vanishes along with the two scientists, a colleague, a dog, and one-and-a-half security guards. (Ewwwww.)

The accidental time travelers find themselves stranded 65 million years in the past. They quickly realize that if they are to be rescued, they will need to make a long, overland journey through the prehistoric wilderness to a spot where they may have a chance of being scooped back up into the present.

Cretaceous Dawn is a small-press title that has some good intentions but never really rises above being merely okay. The authors, both Ph.Ds, set out write a novel that painted as accurate a picture as possible of late Cretaceous North America, and in regards to other fiction on the topic, they were successful. Readers looking for a Jurassic Park-like adventure will be disappointed as the dinosaurs here are not rampaging beasts but more or less real animals that make infrequent appearances. The story is more about wilderness survival in the spirit of Robinson Crusoe, although the closest comparison would be George Gaylord Simpson’s short novel The Dechronization of Sam Magruder, which also concerns a time traveler stuck in the prehistoric past.

If Cretaceous Dawn simply focused on the adventures of its temporal castaways, I would probably think more highly of it. The problem is there is a side plot about a modern-day investigation into the disappearance of the time travelers. This secondary story breaks up the prehistoric action and seems only to exist to lengthen the novel. The authors also spend too much time trying to make their implausible theory of time travel sound plausible. I would have rather spent the time exploring the Cretaceous world.

Do I recommend picking up Cretaceous Dawn? I’m conflicted on this one. It certainly has things I like, but it also wasn’t as fulfilling a read as I had hoped. Dinosaur aficionados probably will enjoy this novel, but I think that anyone else delving into it will find the plot too slow paced for their liking.

  • According to the cover blurb, L.M. Graziano is a former professor of oceanography at the Sea Education Association while M.S.A. Graziano is a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University.

1 comment:

hourslips said...

I mostly really liked this, but then, I'm definitely a dinosaur aficionado.

My favorite bit is that the dinosaurs are treated like real animals.

My two big complaints were:

-there's no reason to exaggerate the sizes (18 ton T. rex, really?), these things are more than scary enough at their real sizes to people without heavy weaponry. I take the point that we probably haven't found the fossils of the biggest individuals ever, and "Corla" is apparently supposed to be one of those absolute-max individuals, but 18 tons seems too much even for that.

-the "new moon" confusion bit at the end seemed totally forced to add an extra twist when the book should simply have been over