Eighteen years ago, the prehistoric past collided with the present as time itself underwent a tremendous disruption, transporting huge swaths of the Cretaceous period into the twentieth century. Neighborhoods, towns, and cities were replaced by dense primeval jungles and modern humanity suddenly found itself sharing the world with fierce dinosaurs. In the end, desperate measures were taken to halt the disruptions and the crisis appeared to be over.
New dinosaurs begin to appear, rampaging through cities. A secret mission to the Moon discovers a living Tyrannosaurus Rex trapped in an alternate timeline. As time begins to unravel once more, Nick Paulson, director of the Office of Security Science, finds a time passage to the Cretaceous period where humans, ripped from the comforts of the twenty-first century, are barely surviving in the past. Led by a cultlike religious leader, these survivors are at war with another sentient species descended from dinosaurs.
As the asteroid that ends the reign of dinosaurs rushes toward Earth, Nick and his allies must survive a war between species and save the future as we know it.
James F. David's Dinosaur Thunder is a terrifying, futuristic thriller in the tradition of Michael Crichton and Douglas Preston.
*Blurb from publishers website.
The first thing you should know about Dinosaur Thunder is it isn't a standalone story. It is the second sequel to the 1995 novel Footprints of Thunder, which was followed in 2005 by Thunder of Time. Anyone who hasn't read those two earlier novels may find themselves bewildered by Dinosaur Thunder as its plot relies heavily on knowledge of what has come before. A prologue brings readers up to speed but it is no substitute for having read the two earlier novels.
As for myself, I cracked open this book with trepidation. I enjoyed Footprints of Thunder but hated Thunder of Time, both for its poorly researched depictions of dinosaurs and its heavy-handed political stereotyping. In Dinosaur Thunder, David has put a little more effort into fleshing out his star animals and dialed way back on the political ranting. The novel is a better book than its predecessor as a result, but it still has several flaws that prevent me from recommending it.
Dinosaur Thunder is a novel with nearly a dozen main characters and nearly as many plot threads. To summarize as briefly as possible, the discovery of a living T. rex on the moon hints there may another disaster coming like the one that caused large swaths of modern-day Earth to be replaced by their Cretaceous period equivalents. Stranger still, dinosaurs from the past seem to be leaking into our world through doorways in time that may have something to with the comet/asteroid strike that killed them off. When the presidential science adviser goes off to investigate one of these doorways, he finds himself stranded in the ancient past. He is not alone. Also stranded are a group of people led by the Reverend, a Jim Jones-type cult leader who believes the Earth is only 10,000 years old despite the presence of dinosaurs all around him. Then there are the intelligent, spear-wielding dinosauroids who the human survivors are at war with.
Had the author focused solely on the plot elements I outlined then I would have enjoyed Dinosaur Thunder more. The problem is there are other, less interesting plot threads that break up the action, like that of a woman raising a pack of young Velociraptors. The novel has a lot of filler, and while it is less than 400 pages, the book feels too long for the story it is trying to tell. Not helping are the bland characters. The female characters in particular are treated poorly, with their most distinguishing characteristic being their looks. We're reminded repeatedly about just how gorgeous the heroic female leads are, while the most annoying character in the book is a fat woman (and the fact she is fat is turned into a running gag).
That said, Dinosaur Thunder isn't a bad book. Stylistically, it is better written than some other books I have read for this site. It also has some decent action in its latter half. The problem is it just isn't memorable. Much of the mystery of the first book is gone as we now have nice, tidy (and silly) explanations for time travel. The dinosaurs come out a little better this time around, but they are still only bit players in a story more about time travel than paleontology. And for reasons I already pointed out, the plot drags when it shouldn't. I can only recommend Dinosaur Thunder if you have read the first two books in the series and are a completist.
- David is dean of the School of Behavioral and Health Science at George Fox University, a private Christian college in Newberg, Oregon.