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Bones of the Earth

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  748 ratings  ·  61 reviews
World-renowned paleontologist Richard Leyster's universe changedforever the day a stranger named Griffin walked into his office with a remarkable job offer . . . and an ice cooler containing the head of a freshly killed Stegosaurus. For Leyster and a select group of scientific colleagues an impossible fantasy has come true: the ability to study dinosaurs up close, in their ...more
Paperback, 383 pages
Published February 25th 2003 by HarperTorch (first published 2002)
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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerOutlander by Diana GabaldonThe Time Machine by H.G. WellsTimeline by Michael CrichtonSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Best Time Travel Fiction
180th out of 1,033 books — 3,343 voters
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Best Alternate History Novels and Stories
109th out of 323 books — 627 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,495)
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Greg Zink
It is amazing that a book combining two of the coolest subject areas in the world - dinosaurs and time travel - manages to come off so dry and uninspired. Somehow this book manages to take most of the fun out of both aspects of the book, combine them with multitudes of uninteresting characters and meander to an utterly disappointing ending. I'll say that a few of the sequences in the past were kinda fun, but overall it was not worth my time to read.

Time travel is awesome. It's one of my favorite
In this episode of L&O SDU (Special Dino Unit), the paleontologists get stuck in the Cretaceous, have an orgy, Lai-tsz gets pregnant, and Leyster wants her to have an abortion. Meanwhile, T-Rex ranches some hadrosaurs.
Kat  Hooper
3.5 stars Originally posted at FanLit.

Paleontologist Richard Leyster works for the Smithsonian. It’s his dream job, so naturally he scoffs when a strange man named Harry Griffin offers him a new job whose description and benefits are vague. But when Griffin leaves an Igloo cooler containing the head of a real dinosaur on Leyster’s desk, Leyster is definitely intrigued. A couple of years later, when Griffin finally contacts him again, Leyster is ready to sign on to Griffin’s crazy project. He and
This book had an interesting premise in the idea of a paleontologist traveling back in time to study dinos after a mysterious guest visits his lab and leaves a freshly decapitated stegosaurus head in a cooler. Sure, we're all a little dino fictioned out in the post-Jurassic Park era but that's kind of a cool beginning, no? I almost said we're all dino'd out but that's not possible. I still am glued to my radio whenever NPR Science Friday has a paleontologist guest. That, btw, is a dandy show.

Andy Love
This is one of my favorite SF books of recent years for several reasons. I love the fact that it has realistic scientist characters and shows them at work. They are not perfect, but they are clearly deeply curious about the world around them and willing to go to great efforts to learn more about it (the scenes in the first chapter in which Leyster, the paleontologist, describes the way he spent endless hours to learn everything possible from a rare find of dinosaur footprints, in which Leyster t ...more
Michael Battaglia
It sounds at first like it could be one of those situations where a writer pitches a concept as the combination of two concepts that don't necessarily belong together. "Ninja Cook on Mars!" Or "Underwater Band Assassins!" "John Updike crossed with Dr Seuss!" You get the idea. Here Swanwick gives us dinosaurs AND time travel, and against all odds manages to write a story about it that makes sense to itself and reveals interesting ideas about both topics. If it sounds easy, its because you haven't ...more
if someone wrote a sci-fi novel as a work of magical realism, it'd be 'bones of the earth'. for all that the loving research that went into this book shines through in clear-eyed detail about every long-dead organism populating the ancient earth, this isn't hard sci-fi. a smithsonian paleontologist is offered an opportunity to study dinosaurs in the living flesh, and he learns no more about the mode of time travel than we do. it's simply a gift from some far-advanced culture, a drop of magic thr ...more
Rick Hautala
I needed a "light summer read" after all the intense writing and reading I've been doing (research, etc.), so I settled down on the deck one afternoon with this book and was totally swept away. What a GREAT dinosaur/time travel story, and the writing is clear and evocative. GREAT STUFF! Terrific research. I don't know enough about dinosaurs to know when the research ends and the fiction begins, but this is a thought-provoking book with an intense story and great characters. READ IT!
Swanwick è molto bravo, e deve aver studiato anche molto per scrivere questo romanzo in particolare, ma credo che non abbia risolto i paradossi temporali in maniera soddisfacente: il Deus Machina che "dà il permesso" a Salley di modificare la propria linea temporale non mi convince particolarmente :) però è un bel romanzo, nonostante tutto :)
Paleontologists Gertrude Salley, Richard Leyster and the mysterious Griffin stumble through time, trying to piece together everything they can about dinosaurs without causing a time paradox. But how did the government get time-travel? And why do Salley and Leyster hate each other so much?
Zha Ewry
Swanwick takes on paradoxes, time travel and dinosaurs with disturbing aplomb and a delightfully dark humor.
This book is an interesting mixture of sci-fi and paleontology. The thesis: we've acquired time travel, so let's use it to go see dinosaurs in person! Except what about inadvertent (or intentional) interference with our past? The characters in the book are warned about the dire consequences of creating a paradox: the universe won't implode, but those who gifted us with time travel will revoke the privilege. To head off any such paradoxes, those in charge have "paradox detectors" and nip such vio ...more
Where do I begin with this 2002 Nebula Award nominee? Okay, any paleontologist would probably enjoy this book; it's rife with paleontological references. Any reader who gets off seeing page after page littered with words like: tachymetabolic, Cenozoic, Mesozoic, hadrosaurine, geistosaurs, ecthothermic, ceratopsian, dromaeosaurs, Maastrichtian,...don't bother reading this review - just go out and buy the book. For those who look for empathetic characters or an engrossing on.

One thing
David Demoss
Meh. It was alright, though I'm a little leery of anyone who treats time travel like a cavalier McGuffin. The middle of the book, concerning a temporal research team stranded in the Mesozoic and their various trials and tribulations in the name of survival, has all the real heart and it's obvious this was where Swanwick wanted to go from the beginning. But to get there we have to introduce a Pentagon-sponsored conspiracy of time travelers in league with bird people from the far future. And becau ...more
Roddy Williams
World-renowned palaeontologist Richard Leyster’s universe changed forever the day a stranger named Griffin walked into his office with a remarkable job offer… and an ice-cooler containing the head of a freshly killed Stegosaurus. For Leyster and a select group of scientific colleagues an impossible fantasy has come true: the ability to study dinosaurs up close, in their own era and milieu. But tampering with time and paradox can have disastrous effects on the future and past alike, breeding a vi ...more
Dan C.
When I picked up Michael Swanwick's novel Bones of the Earth from the library, my wife asked me what it was about. I said "it's about time travel! and dinosaurs!" To this, her reply was "...And? What's the hook?" She didn't seem to get that time travel and dinosaurs WAS the hook. What else do you need? You have time travel granted to scientists so that they can go back in time to the Mesozoic and see real living and breathing dinosaurs. This, by itself, is a can't-fail set up. Throw in a dash of ...more
A paleontologist fantasy... time travel, dinosaurs.. I almost gave it up in the first third. The story seems to be a convenient excuse for the author to float out all his pet theories about the dinosaurs and how they lived. He obviously knows a lot about them, but he didn't convince me to care.

And the fantasy gets personalized when the older, wiser, paleontologist/professor(ahem... I wonder who the author most identified with?) goes back to study dinosaurs in the flesh, and in about the space of
Christopher McKitterick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Next to William Gibson, Michael Swanwick may be the most interesting writer to have emerged from the 1980's cyberpunk movement; he's certainly as fine a literary stylist as Gibson. Judging from the rich vein of Swanwick's work, from cyberpunk to fantasy, and now, time travel, it's possible one could argue that Swanwick may be the better writer. "Bones of the Earth" is one of the finest time travel tales I've ever read. It certainly has the best depiction I've seen of dinosaurs in fiction; it see ...more
In Michael Swanwick's novel, a bureaucrat, Griffin walks into paleontologist Leyster's office and offers him a job, to study dinosaurs in their own time, along with hundreds of others in the greatest secret of... well, timeframes get a little muddled, but let's just say it's a big secret. The gift of time travel seems too good to be true and indeed it is, as Griffin tries to keep the intricate web of causality intact among people who have very different ideas.
I really enjoyed this one. Swanwick
What would happen if we discovered time travel and gave it only to paleontologists to use to study dinosaurs? This book explores that question quite thoroughly. Here are some of its answers:

* Creationists would get all in a tizzy and try to sabotage the work. This doesn’t seem beyond the pale to me, but it does remind me of the sequence in Towing Jehovah when some atheists conspire to bomb (and sink) God’s body so as to prevent the worldwide conversion of humanity. Both attempts seem stupid to
Matthew Hester
This was a terrible novel.
As a means for the author to demonstrate how much he learned and knows about paleontology, i suppose it was quite good. As a vehicle of actual riveting storytelling though, it was an ungainly nightmare.

Why is it so hard for most authors to write intelligent and tangable time travel stories. I mean seriously; it's not like it's a highly complicated scientific theory, right???

I either need to give up on the genre entirely, or just write my own book as a demonstration pie
Humanity is given the gift of time travel, but the mysterious benefactors restrict its use to scientific study by paleontologists. Paradoxes and dinosaurs are titans to tackle in a single book, and the story seems to get lost in itself as characters wander in and out of time. This is "pop-sci-fi" so the mechanics of time travel are never discussed, and paradoxes seemed to be controlled by bureaucratic administration involving lots of memos. The dinosaur theories are fun and seem sound and the ex ...more
William Connolley
This is essentially a knock-off of Asimov's End of Eternity. Read that, not this pale imitation.

How someone who wrote Vacuum Flowers could write this I really don't know. Read that, or Stations of the Tide, not this.
Man, for my great breadth of science love and curiosity, this book made me realize that either (1) I'm not into dinosaurs or (2) I just wasn't into the writing style of this author.

I gave up after reading 1/3rd of the book because I was just ... bored.
I read this before, but couldn't remember a thing about it. From the two star rating, clearly I didn't think much of it! It'll be interesting to see what I think of it now.


Upped the rating by one star, but I can see why I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about it. SPOILER: (view spoiler) Not to mention I think a lot of the time travel loop logic didn't hold together
Jeff Raymond
All while reading this, I was chuckling a bit, as the book had a really Crichton-esque pop sci-fi feel to it and I was struggling to take it seriously. I didn’t really like it overall, just to learn that it was Nebula-nominated and Hugo-winning. Was 2002 a weak year or something? Compared to The Accidental Time Machine, the time travel aspect seemed forced and ended up awfully confusing, the characters were only marginally interesting, and I just really didn’t care much for it. I dunno - this wa ...more
Kevin Groosalugg
I read Swanwick's collection of short stories first and this is an expansion of one of those. I enjoyed the the theories presented in the book, especially those involving farming and co-operation between dinosaur species, and I haven't read a good dinosaur book in a while, but maybe it should have been left as a short story. The time travel aspect was interesting but the novel dragged a bit and never saw the action/drama I was craving. I don't regret the time I spent reading it but won't quickly ...more
Really not completely without imagination. But now that I've reached the end, I realize I haven't quite figured out what the motivation of the Bird Men is (aside from the fact they 'like us') and why they deleted one timeline, and which one it was that they deleted. Hmmm. Not sure I care enough to go back and check. Entertaining enough though.

I think a guy at Uncle Hugo's actually snuck this into my book pile. I have no idea why I'd pick it up on my own volition. He said I'd like it. He was only
SO MUCH BETTER than the Iron Dragon's Daughter.
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“This book is dedicated to all good teachers everywhere, most particularly those of the William Levering School and Central High School in Philadelphia, to whom more is owed than can ever be repaid.” 1 likes
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