Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New book roundup: Dinosaur invasions and alien dinosaurs

Sadly it appears the premier of Jurassic World in June isn’t going to result in the same deluge of dinosaur-themed media that surrounded the release of Jurassic Park in 1993. I only know of two new works of fiction about dinosaurs coming from mainstream publishers, and there isn't a single anthology in sight. Fortunately there are several self-published titles available for readers wanting some prehistoric action.

As always, a disclaimer: I haven’t read any of these books so I can’t vouch for their quality. I’m simply providing this list as a service to readers. Also, this list relies heavily on titles published through If you know of any other publishing formats that include titles I’m missing, please let me know in the comments.

Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion by Malcolm Hulke

This isn’t a self-published title but a novelization of one of the classic show’s most notorious episodes. (Turns out puppets do not make convincing dinosaurs.) However, the novelization is unusual in that it was penned by the writer of the episode. Here’s the cover blurb:
Three hundred and fifty million years ago, dinosaurs crawled the Earth, devouring everything in sight. But then they disappeared. Certainly, no one ever expected them to return ... When Doctor Who lands in London and finds the entire city deserted - except for dinosaurs - he figures something really weird is going on. It is. A clever group of misguided idealists is at the centre of a bizarre plot to reverse Time to a golden era - an era before technology, before pollution, before the hydrogen bomb. The group is going to give the human race a second chance. But, to implement Operation Golden Age, the past must be eliminated. The present will not exist - and only the chosen will survive. Doctor Who must turn the clock forward to stop Operation Golden Age, but will he be able to do it before Earth's Time runs out?

Planets that Time Forgot: Classic Tales of Otherworldly Dinosaurs, edited by Benjamin Chandler

In my essay about the different plot devices authors used to bring dinosaurs back to life, one of the more unusual ones mentioned was transporting dinosaurs to alien planets. Benjamin Chandler has collected and illustrated six classic stories using this device. Cover blurb:
The dinosaurs are long gone on this world, but what if they existed elsewhere? Would they evolve to build modern civilizations? Overrun planets in primordial violence? Come to be worshiped as gods? What if they were to re-evolve in Earth's distant future?
Here are six newly illustrated classic sci-fi stories that try to answer these questions, exploring worlds where dinosaurs still reign, from pulpy adventures on the far side of the moon to giant alien monster satire. Featuring the works of Henry Kuttner, Arthur K. Barnes, Milton Lesser, and others.

Dino Hunt by Max Davine

Here’s a title from a small publisher that is available as both a physical book and digital download:
Jimmy Reeves is a down on his luck wildlife wrangler, his career once saw him traveling the globe, working on relocation programs and starring in documentary films. Now, he and his business partner Paul Franciscus are lucky if they can get a gig wrangling bulls in Arizona. Until one day, when they receive a massive advance payment from a mysterious company based in Florida. In return, they are to do what once brought them glory the world over; trap and relocated endangered animals. Little do they know they're not going to the Everglades to trap alligators, they're going through time and space to rescue great, big dinosaurs!
But others have come to pillage the Cretaceous world for its natural resources, and to enslave and exploit the prehistoric inhabitants. They are ruthless, they are well equipped, and they will stop at nothing. It's up to unwitting Reeves to make a stand not just for the dinosaurs, but to save his own life, teaming up with an alluring paleontologist and a helicopter pilot nicknamed “Crash” to save the land of the forgotten from human annihilation.

Other titles

Crockatiel - An O.C.L.T. Novel by David Niall Wilson: The latest in a series of novels about an international agency that investigates paranormal mysteries, this time about a mysterious creature living in the swamps of South Carolina.

The Island in the Mist by G.G. Mosely: The fountain of youth is discovered on a lost island in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.

The Valley by Rick Jones: The Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park as convicted criminals are forced to cross a valley filled with resurrected dinosaurs while being filmed for the amusement of the masses.

Return to Skull Island by Ron Miller and Darrell Funk: An unofficial sequel to the original King Kong. Miller is an illustrator and writer who has received the Hugo Award.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Apex Theropod Deck-Building Game by Die-Hard Games (2015)


Apex is a deck-building game, played solo or with up to 5 friends. You play as one of seven prehistoric apex predators competing for territory and resources against other predators. Each playable species has a unique deck to master.  Each deck has different strengths, weaknesses, and strategies—creating a varied and constantly evolving experience.

Your species must overcome a very brutal environment including harsh climate changes, disease, attacks from predators, grievous wounds, infections, and deadly prey. The game incorporates many dinosaurs that behave in their own distinct way. The goal of the game is to endure the environment, build up the population and evolve your species, and become the Apex predator.

* Summary from publisher’s website. Images from BoardGameGeek.

My thoughts

Apex is a game I waited a long time to get my hands on. Then I got it, and it took me nearly as long to learn how to play.

I’m exaggerating, but my unfamiliarity with deck-building card games combined with a poorly written rulebook certainly tested my patience during my first few games. The game designer has since published a second, much easier to understand rulebook and posted gameplay videos, all of which helped. I’ve now nailed down the core mechanics of the game, although I’m still a long way from mastering it.

Was all the time I sunk into Apex worth it? Definitely. Apex is the best dinosaur board/card game currently on the market. But it is not a game that will appeal to everyone, with mechanics that will likely confuse people whose experience with board games doesn’t go much beyond Monopoly.

Apex is a game for one to six players—or eight if you have the Kickstarter edition—in which you take on the role of a carnivorous dinosaur in the Mesozoic. You hunt prey, fend off other predators, and even “hatch eggs” that can become cards to add to your deck. Most of the game’s 600 cards represent an impressive range of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals that lived during the Mesozoic. (Except the giant snake Titanoboa, which was included for its coolness factor.)

At the start of the game, each player chooses a deck of cards that represents a specific predator. You then “hunt” prey cards using cards from your deck. Every kill earns you points that can be used to purchase new apex predator cards for your deck or "evolve" cards that give you special abilities. Trouble comes in the form of non-player predators that periodically pop up in the game to either kill prey or attack you. If that weren’t enough, you must contend with a super-predator “boss” that can not only deal out a lot of damage, but will take multiple hits to bring down. And did I mention this boss has minions to make your life even more miserable?

One thing Apex does beautifully is merge theme with game mechanics. A lot of the rules simply make sense in context of simulating a predator in the wild. For example, there are disease cards that require you to add a wound card to your deck every time you draw them. That’s logical: Just as a disease whittles away an animal’s health, disease cards make your deck progressively weaker. One rule I really like is ambush. You can set aside up to three cards to ambush prey in a later turn, but you must add an “alert” card to your deck to do this. If you draw the alert card later on, not only do you lose the element of surprise and return your ambush cards to the deck, but you activate any alert rules on prey in play, making them harder to hunt.

Another plus for Apex is it’s simply beautiful to look at. Apex was the creation of one man—Herschel Hoffmeyer —who not only came up with the game mechanics but also did all the art himself. That’s an impressive achievement, and I’m a bit flabbergasted at the amount of work that went into the game. The art is not just good game art—it’s good paleoart, with a degree of anatomical accuracy you usually don’t see in entertainment products. I’ve often found myself not playing the game but simply looking at it, enjoying the depictions of the dinosaurs spread out on the table before me.

Are there downsides? As I’ve already mentioned, the rulebook that came with my copy of the game was hard to follow. Another drawback is Apex isn’t a game you can just jump into on a whim. It has a significant setup time, with players needing to shuffle and sort the several card decks used in the game before they start playing. (This is probably less of a problem with more players given each person could shuffle a different deck.) Also, while I have only played Apex solo, I’m left with the impression there isn’t much player interaction during the course of the game. There are few cards you can play against other people but otherwise players are playing against the mechanics of the game itself, not other players. Whether or not this bothers you depends on what type of gamer you are.

Negatives aside, I love this game. I had never been much of a card game person before, usually preferring games with dice. Apex opened my eyes to a whole genre of games I had missed out on until now. Unfortunately Apex is not a game you can purchase and begin playing the same day, which will limit its appeal to casual gamers. The game has a bit of a learning curve. But if you are willing to invest the time to learn how to play it, you will be rewarded with the best dinosaur game since Dinosaurs of the Lost World.

  • The nine playable predators in the game are Acrocanthosaurus, Carnotaurus, Giganotosaurus, Spinosaurus, Tyrannosaurus rex, Utahratpor, Velociraptor, Quetzalcoatlus, and Sarocosuchus. The last two are only available in the exotic predators edition of the game.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brontosaurus: A faded star rises again

So much for being the snob who corrected my friends whenever someone mentioned “Brontosaurus.”

As you’ve probably heard by now, a group of scientists has proposed restoring the name after concluding the original fossils differed enough from Apatosaurus to constitute a separate genus. I’ll leave it to better writers to explain how this resurrection came about. All I know is I’ve lost the pleasure of tut-tutting writers when they included Brontosaurus in their stories.

Make no mistake: Brontosaurus has appeared in a lot of dinosaur books and movies. It is possibly the most famous dinosaur, running neck to neck with T. rex in terms of a dinosaur name everyone knows. Pull someone off the street and ask that person to draw you a dinosaur, I’m willing to bet most drawings will resemble a Brontosaurus: thin at one end, much much thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end.

Brontosaurus may in fact be the first dinosaur ever to appear in a work of fiction. The 1901 pulp adventure novel Beyond the Great South Wall by Frank Savile is about an expedition to Antarctica that discovers a lost civilization that worships a god named “Cay.” The author includes this footnote after the narrator stumbles upon Cay’s lair:
Lord Heatberslie makes a mistake here. Professor Lessatition's subsequent researches proved "the god Cay" to be without doubt Brontosaurus excelsus, remains of which have been found in the Jurassic formation of Colorado. It was purely a land animal.
Beyond the Great South Wall was probably the first example of dinosaur fiction. Yes, Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth was published four decades before Savile’s novel, but Verne’s tale didn’t include any living dinosaurs. Rather, the famous science fiction author populated his book with mastodons and marine reptiles. (Update: I forgot the 1888 novel A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder may actually be the first science fiction novel with dinosaurs, but a quick search through it didn't turn up any specific species, so my point stands for now.)

Brontosaurus also was absent in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel The Lost World, possibly because many of the dinosaurs depicted in the novel were known from fossils discovered in Doyle’s home country of Great Britain, whereas Brontosaurus is an American beast. It is ironic then that Brontosaurus would play a major role in the first film adaptation of the book. The 1925 movie features not only a Brontosaurus fighting an Allosaurus, but the animal is transported to London to go on a rampage through the city—a scenario that was copied by countless other B-movies.

The animal appears again in the 1933 film King Kong during a frightening sequence in which a group of sailors are trying to cross a lake in pursuit of the giant ape. For sake of plot, Brontosaurus is turned into a flesh-eating monster that flips the sailors' rafts then picks them off one by one as they swim to shore. One sailor manages to climb a tree only to be eaten by the Brontosaurus, which can grab him because of its long neck.

After that, Brontosaurus faded into the background of most imaginative works about dinosaurs. It usually got a shout out but was never the star, lacking both the fierce weaponry of Triceratops and the predatory habits of T. rex. One exception was the 1953 novel Danger: Dinosaurs! by Richard Marsten, in which a herd of brontosaurs plays a small but important role in the plot. More often than not, any references to the dinosaur were more like this throwaway paragraph in David Gerrold’s 1978 novel Deathbeast:
At first, he thought it was a grounded blimp – then his eyes adjusted to the scale of the thing and he realized it was only a brontosaur. Not dangerous at all – well, not deliberately dangerous. There was the case of that hunter who was eaten inadvertently because the brontosaur’s eyesight is so poor it hadn’t see him in the tree – but that one really didn’t count.
The 1980s saw Brontosaurus rumble into the spotlight once again. The dinosaur played a starring role in the 1985 movie Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, a film so bad it nearly condemned dinosaur films to extinction. Luckily, the animal’s reputation was salvaged in 1988 with the release of The Land Before Time, an animated film about the adventures of a baby Brontosaurus named Littlefoot.

Brontosaurus didn’t make it into 1993’s Jurassic Park. However, the animal did appear in the 2005 remake of King Kong. The film took place on an island where dinosaurs continued to evolve and thrive after the rest of their kind died off 65 million years ago. According to the tie-in book, the island’s brontosaurs had evolved from earlier sauropod ancestors.

Will Brontosaurus rise again now its status has been restored? Hard to say. Still, it is notable that the upcoming Jurassic World features Apatosaurus as one of the dinosaurs populating the park. Given the park’s staff have been known to get dinosaur names wrong before, who is to say the dinosaurs are not brontosaurs?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Game alert: Evolution takes flight on Kickstarter

When I posted my essay Monday about the history of prehistoric-themed board games, I didn't expect this week would be filled with news about them. Now it turns out the popular card game Evolution is getting both a second edition and an expansion that will allow players to create animals capable of flight.

North Star Games - the publisher of Evolution - is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the expansion, titled Evolution Flight. The company also is planning a second edition with major changes to many of the cards - a strange move given the first edition hit stores just last year. The good news for anyone that owns the game is that if you pledge $25 for a copy of the expansion, the company will send you the updated 100 cards at no additional cost, provided it hits at least $50,000 in pledges. The game was already at $23,700 with 44 days to go in the Kickstarter campaign at the time of this post, so it is very likely the pledge amount will go above and beyond the amount needed to get the updated cards.

I admit I was distressed when I learned about the Kickstarter: I had just purchased a copy of the game a few hours earlier! I'm happy I will probably get the new cards along with the expansion, but I can't help but think of those retailers whose copies of the game may go unsold once word gets out a second edition is already in the works. It doesn't sound like a smart business move to release an updated version of the game so close to the release of the original version, but then again, I'm not in the board game business.

Anyway, click here to see the campaign. $25 will get you the expansion. $55 will get you the second edition. $75 will get you both.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New game: A deck full of dinosaurs

History buffs who play board games probably are familiar with the Timeline series of card games. Now amateur paleontologists will get to see what all the fuss is about with the most recent edition in the series, Cardline: Dinosaurs.

Cardline: Dinosaurs is already out in France and will debut in the U.S. sometime between July and September of this year, according to BoardGameGeek. Here's the description of the game from the publisher's website:
The diplodocus is clearly heavier than the tyrannosaurus, but what about the brachiosaurus? I imagine that the stegosaurus is lighter than those three, but does it weigh less than a wooly mammoth?

In Cardline Dinosaurs, these are the kind of questions you’ll be faced with each time you want to place one of your cards. There’s only one goal here -to be the first one to correctly play all of your cards.

This box contains 110 cards built around the theme of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. All of these cards are compatible with the cards from the Cardline Animal series. This way, by using various boxes with different themes, you increase the possibilities and the fun of playing.
That description isn't particularly helpful in describing gameplay but I've played other games in this series and can assure you they're pretty fun. Basically players try to get rid of all the cards in their possession by placing them in the right sequence in relation to other cards in play. In the history game, cards must be arranged from the earliest historical event to the most recent. In Cardline: Dinosaurs, cards must be arranged from the smallest animal to the largest or from the lightest creature to the heaviest. (Players decide at the start of the game which category they want to use.)

The video below gives you an idea of what the game looks like. Its biggest selling point is the tin that holds the cards. The card art is colorful, but unfortunately the dinosaurs lack the anatomical accuracy one would find had the company used a paleoartist instead. Still, I plan to pick up a copy of the game once it hits the states.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dinosaurs & Dice: A short history of prehistoric gaming

Dungeons & Dragons may be best known for dragons, but dinosaurs have been part of the roleplaying game since its start.

When D&D co-creator Gary Gygax penned the first edition of the system’s Monster Manual in 1977, he included a small menagerie of dinosaurs alongside the book’s otherwise mythological bestiary. Located in the "D" section between “Devil” and “Displacer Beast” were dinosaurs such as Ankylosaurus, Iguanodon, and, of course, T. rex:
"Because of the nature of time in planes where magic works, dinosaurs widely separate in time are discussed hereunder, for they can be found intermingled on some alternate world, strange plane, or isolated continent somewhere."
Many roleplaying games, board games, and miniatures systems have featured dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. They are not nearly as numerous as games about elves and goblins, and most dinosaur-themed games are targeted at kids. But there is still a considerable number of games out there that can be enjoyed by adults who never outgrew their love for the ancient past.

Board games

The earliest dinosaur-themed board game listed by BoardGameGeek is the Alley Oop Jungle Game, published in 1936. Based on the comic strip of the same name, Alley Oop is a simple spin-and-move game obviously made for younger kids.

The following decades would see the release of several prehistoric-themed board games, most tie-ins to popular TV shows, like The Flintstones or Land of the Lost. Most were simple “roll-and-move” games, with players rolling dice and moving their pawns the same number of spaces as the result.

Things didn’t get interesting until the 1980s, a time when board game designers started to experiment with game mechanics. One product of this era was the 1985 board game Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs, in which players moved their explorer pawns across a 3-D board while avoiding T. rexes, pteranodons, and an erupting volcano. That same year saw the release of Tyrannosaurus Wrecks, a "microgame" in which time-traveling hunters journey to the Mesozoic to bag dangerous dinosaurs. Two years later came what I consider the best dinosaur-themed board game yet made, Dinosaurs of the Lost World. In the game, players lead expeditions into a prehistoric wilderness, seeking out new discoveries while avoiding hostile beasts. (If you want to know more about Dinosaurs of the Lost World, see my review.) The end of the decade saw the release of Tyranno Ex (1990), a “eurogame” in which players evolve their dinosaurs to survive in different habitats.

Despite this initial burst of innovation, most prehistoric board games have remained simple affairs. That said, there have been a few exceptions, such as the “caveman” game Stone Age (2008). Other prehistoric-themed games that can be enjoyed by grown-ups include Primordial Soup (1997), Evo (2001), Urland (2001), Wildlife (2002), Conquest of Pangaea (2006), and Evolution (2010; second edition 2014). The rise of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have allowed for the distribution of games publishers would have otherwise ignored, such as Apex (2015) and In a World of Dinosaurs (To be released).

Roleplaying games

As mentioned in the introduction, dinosaurs have been a part of roleplaying games since the start of the hobby. They would play a central role in the Dungeons & Dragons adventure module The Isle of Dread (1981), which was inspired by the film King Kong. Another King Kong-themed adventure module, The Isle of the Ape, came out four years later. When the D&D campaign setting Forgotten Realms was first unveiled in 1987, an entire landmass was set aside for the terrible reptiles: the peninsula of Chult. This setting was explored in detail in the 1993 supplement The Jungles of Chult. If that wasn’t enough, dinosaurs would get their own (inner) world to inhabit in D&D: Hollow World (1990).

Of course, D&D is not the only roleplaying game in existence. Lands of Mystery (1985) was a Hero System supplement that served as a toolbox for players who wanted to create their own “lost world” adventures. Another notable non-D&D setting is Space: 1889. This game, first published in 1988, takes place in an alternate 19th century where all the planets of inner solar system are habitable. Venus is a jungle planet inhabited by dinosaurs and lizardmen, while life on Mercury is just starting the transition from sea to land. The setting’s creator, Frank Chadwick, also wrote Cadillacs & Dinosaurs: The Roleplaying Game (1990). Set in the world of the comics, the game contains an extensive bestiary of prehistoric wildlife.

The popular roleplaying game system GURPS would get on the action with GURPS Dinosaurs (1996), which not only boasts stats for more than 100 extinct animals, but also has an introduction by paleontologist Jack Horner. One of the stranger settings to incorporate dinosaurs came in the form of Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex (2001) by Goodman Games. The game is best described as a space Western with dinosaurs filling the part of Native Americans. Dinosaurs would return to Earth with the release of Hollow Earth Expedition (2006) by Exile Game Studio, which was heavily inspired by the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

As for more recent works, Cubicle 7 Entertainment released Primeval in 2012, which is based on the British television series about prehistoric creatures unleashed on the modern world.

Miniatures gaming

The history of prehistoric animals in miniatures gaming is harder to pin down than that of board games and roleplaying games. Many miniatures rulesets were published by tiny companies on shoestring budgets – I have rulesets that were probably produced on a desktop printer. Also, to play miniatures games, you need miniatures of dinosaurs and other animals, which are rare.

The earliest ruleset I have in my collection is Tusk (1994) by Matthew Hartley. This game lets players hunt mammoths and dinosaurs using easy-to-learn rules. Hunting dinosaurs also is the central focus of Saurian Safari (2002) by Chris Peers.

Other rulesets focus more on adventuring rather than hunting. One is Thrilling Expeditions: Valley of the Thunder Lizards (2008) by Rattrap Productions, which allows players to game "lost world"-type adventures. The same company also released the gaming supplement Dragon Bones: Adventures in the Gobi Desert (2005), which turns Roy Chapman Andrews' fossil hunting expeditions in 1920s China into Indiana Jones-like escapades. For gamers who prefer living dinosaurs to fossils, there is Adventures in the Lost Lands (2010) by Two Hour Wargames. Then there is Perilous Island (2013), a supplement for the miniatures system Pulp Alley.


Are there any games that I have missed? Plenty, much of it intentional. If you believe there are games worth mentioning that didn’t get a shout out here, feel free to point them out in the comments.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Isaac Asimov's Robots in Time: Predator by William F. Wu (1993)

Cover blurb


Governors are the ultimate in robot evolution. Composed of six separate robots, each can single-handedly run an entire human city. Now they have begun to fail mysteriously. The last unit, MC Governor, realizes its own destruction is approaching. The Third Law of Robotics comes into effect: a robot must protect its own existence.

To save itself, MC Governor breaks itself down into six component robots and launches its parts into the remote past. But there's something MC Governor doesn't know – time travel causes a change in its molecular structure. If its pieces are not returned to their own time, they will explode in a nuclear inferno, destroying the fragile web of human history.

Only an experimental robot named Hunter and a hastily assembled team of human experts have a chance to find the MC Governor robots before they change the past – and the future. Their first target is in hiding somewhere in the age of the dinosaurs. A robot determined to survive. A robot willing to be branded – PREDATOR.

Toward the end of his career, the late science fiction genius Issac Asimov explored the concept of robotics and time travel in his only robot time travel story. That tale, included here, inspired this new series – an adventure across time authorized by Asimov himself.

My thoughts

Perhaps the greatest claim to fame for an author is having your name appear on books you didn't write. Issac Asimov had been dead for a year when the first of the six-book series Robots in Time came out in 1993. He had nothing to do with the series other than it was inspired by a short story he wrote about time-traveling robots. Still, his rock star status in the science fiction world has the power to sell books, which is why his name is displayed more prominently than that of the actual author, William F. Wu, who was hired by the publisher to write the series.

Unfortunately, Robots in Time doesn't get off to a good start in Predator. The story centers around the disappearance of MC Governor, a Voltron-like robot that splits into six different robots that flee into the past out of fear they will be decommissioned by the humans who control them. A new robot called Hunter is built to seek out the six robots and return them to their proper time period. (Actually, Hunter resembles a human, so the correct term would be “android” if you wanted to be semantic about it.) Hunter deduces the first robot fled into the Cretaceous Period, so he assembles a team of three humans – a roboticist, a paleontologist, and an outdoor survival expert - to help him track down the rogue 'bot. What the team doesn't know is MC Governor's creator has also traveled into the past to round up the six robots so he can salvage his reputation, no matter the cost.

Predator is a book with many flaws, but its greatest sin is it is simply boring. The stakes are not high and there is never any sense of danger despite the mingling of humans with dinosaurs. Here's the thing: Good adventure stories need mystery and suspense. Mystery comes from withholding crucial information until a time when its revelation has the greatest dramatic impact. Suspense comes from creating tension, both through character conflict and through putting characters in seemingly unwinnable situations. Predator blunders on mystery by spending the first 50 of its 220 pages explaining the villain motivations instead of letting readers watch as the main characters unravel the clues. It blunders on suspense with human characters who are more bland than the robots that accompany them, so readers couldn't care less about the petty fights they have. As for action, no character ever faces real danger. Hunter has super strength, so he easily fights off any dinosaurs that appear. Even the rogue robot doesn't post any threat thanks to Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, which prevents robots from harming people.

The writing is bland and workmanlike, with most of the text just long stretches of bad dialogue. Wu puts no effort into describing either future Earth or Cretaceous North America. Several dinosaurs make appearances but they are mostly window dressing, disappearing after a couple pages never to be seen again. One exception is a Struthiomimus the protagonists catch and train to use as a mount in less than a day. That should give some idea of the quality of science in this science fiction novel.

There are five other novels in the Robots of Time series, but only Predator has dinosaurs.

  • Predator was released the same year as the first Jurassic Park movie. That explains the focus on dinosaurs. It also explains the many references to chaos theory throughout the novel, although the science behind it is never explored in any detail.
  • Wu says on his website the novel was written for younger readers, so he toned down the story's language and violence. Still, the book was marketed as adult science fiction. That's not as big a stretch as you would think: I once had a bookstore owner explain to me that she placed the science fiction section next to the young adult section because there was overlap in readership.
  • A summary of all six books in the series can be found on Wu's website.