**spoiler alert** Although I enjoyed this one (for the most part), it was a very awkward read. There are really three stories being told here, one of...more**spoiler alert** Although I enjoyed this one (for the most part), it was a very awkward read. There are really three stories being told here, one of which I felt was unnecessary, and another just silly.
Number one, we have the story of the science - the trials and triumphs of the dinosaur hunters. That's what I bought this one to read, and I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. The detailed description of the digs was very well done, and the narratives about how those dinosaurs lived and died were fantastic.
Number two, we have a story of frustrated cowboy love. While I can fully appreciate how it was intended to add some sexual tension to the story, it was unnecessary. The relationship between Mike and Jeanette is cold and one-sided, and his affair with the town mayor is probably one of the weakest aspects of his character, especially coupled with his spite for her husband. Toss in two hot, fliratatious, conveniently available young women to assist with the dig, along with a tryst between Jeanette and Pick (the dinosaur diggger himself), and it just gets soap operaish.
Number three, we have a silly subplot involving an ex-porn mogul, the Russian mob, rich Mexican dinosaur smugglers, a family of anti-government survivalists, and an inexplicably cruel and crooked majoy. Perhaps, if it hadn't been resolved in such a cartoonish fashion, and if there had been some real consquences of everbody's actions, this might have been easier to stomach, but it just didn't work for me at all.
Having said all that, the dinosaur elements were strong enough to carry the book. It's not my favourite Hickam work, but still a (mostly) enjoyable read all the same.(less)
Despite a few narrative flaws, this is an absolutely fascinating story of a young woman doesn’t get the social or scientific recognition she deserves....moreDespite a few narrative flaws, this is an absolutely fascinating story of a young woman doesn’t get the social or scientific recognition she deserves. Coming in, I knew just enough about Mary Anning to want to know more. I knew she was the subject of Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures(which is next on my reading list), but I wanted to start with something more straightforwardly biographical, before moving into the novelised version of her life.
Since I don’t want them to be the focus of my review, let me quickly do away with those narrative flaws I mentioned. Emling’s biography is unflinching and unapologetic in its honestly . . . it’s a story full of words like maybe, perhaps, probably, and likely. As readers, I think we come into a biography understanding that the author cannot possibly know every detail of every moment of the subject’s life with. There’s an unspoken agreement between reader and author to that effect, a silent understanding that there will necessarily be liberties in detail and dialogue. Calling attention to those grey areas at every turn was just distracting.
The other flaw is that the book tends to ramble sometimes, diverting into tangents that, as interesting as they are on their own, interrupt the flow of Mary’s story. Granted, some of these diversions are lengthy, but most of them could have been better served as footnotes or supplementary material at the end. Some readers might not mind the diversions, but it was Mary I came to read about, and it was Mary upon whom I wanted to remain focused.
As soon as you begin to understand a little about Mary Anning, you’ll also understand why those diversions are so distracting. Mary is an icon, a heroine, and a legend. As a self-taught, independent, young woman she made discoveries that put her highly-educated, well-supported, male peers to shame. She had an instinctive understanding of the fossils and bones she was finding, and could immediately envision the prehistoric monstrosities those tiny pieces should form. On more than one occasion, stuffy old scientists and palaeontologists adamantly declared that she was wrong, accusing her of fraud, only to be proven wrong on every occasion.
The fact that Mary got into fossil hunting merely to support her family, following in the footsteps of her beloved (and equally amateur father) just adds to the legend. As a woman, she never received proper credit for any of her discoveries, and could not attend any of the meetings where they were celebrated and discussed. Despite that, the greatest scientific minds of her time understood what a treasure they had in Mary, and many of them sought her out to walk the shore, to experience her gift, and to discuss her finds.
Neither able not permitted to pursue higher education, Mary educated herself, reading whatever she could her hands on, and exploring the practical applications of that knowledge. Far more worried about paying rent on their small cottage, and with feeding her mother and her siblings, she sacrificed the fame and fortune that she could have easily earned as a man, not to mention the love she must have craved as a human being, simply to provide.
It’s amazing to think that, even as Charles Darwin was embarking upon The Beagle, yet to even conceive, much less write, The Origin of Species, this young woman was discovering dinosaurs that even the most educated minds couldn’t fathom. Had I the gift of time travel, I would love nothing more than to spend a day upon the beach, scavenging for fossils with Mary as my guide. Never afraid to get dirty, and more respectful than afraid of the tides that (more than once) brought ruin to Lyme Regis, she must have been an awe-inspiring figure.
Mary’s story is, in a word, amazing. It’s not just the story of a self-taught palaeontologist, a pioneer in her field, but the story of a self-made woman, a revolutionary in her gender. She is a woman who deserves to be recognized on both fronts, and her story here pays equal attention to both aspects of her extraordinary character. Of course, this is also a story full of fascinating details about dinosaurs, fossils, and the scientific process of the 19th century, which just makes it that much more compelling.(less)
At it’s simplest, this is the story that works on two levels – the first being the war between gun-toting monks and crazy-ass dinosaurs, and the second being the forbidden love between one unusual monk and an even more unusual dinosaur.
For the sake of argument, let’s start with the monks. These guys are well-armed, trained to fight, absolutely fearless, and stunningly resistant to injury. Somehow, they’re able to continue on despite the loss of entire limbs and major organs, continuing to take the fight to the dinosaurs until a spare body part can salvaged. This remarkable degree of physical adaptability accounts for some of the more surreal aspects of the story, such as the monk with nothing but a hand grafted below his abdomen, making the difference between standing and sitting as simple as flexing those fingers.
As for the dinosaurs (who are referred to as the Jeremies, for reasons never quite explained), they’re just as smart, just as vicious, and just as awesome as Jurassic Park led us to believe . . . except they’ve armed themselves with instruments of lethal destruction. Think improvisation, akin to Ash from the Evil Dead movies, and you begin to get a sense of their insanely mechanized blades and biochemical tools of mass destruction. For the most part, they’re portrayed as an unstoppable force of aggression, but we get glimpses here and there of their vulnerabilities – and that’s where the story begins to get interesting.
A female, bipedal, duck-billed dinosaur named Petunia (who lacks the spikes and armour of the Jeremies), serves as a bridge between the species. It is through her relationship with the hero (a monk whose name we never do learn) that we not only find a story of forbidden love, but one of cultural understanding.
If you come to Love in the Time of Dinosaurs simply for Bizarro action and surreal disaster, then you will not go away disappointed. This is absolutely a fun and frantic read, with some really inventive battle scenes that are equal parts G.I. Joe cartoon, Platoon/Saving Private Ryan double-bill, and Call of Duty multi-player madness. If you’re hoping for a little bit more to hold your attention, I daresay you won’t be disappointed either. There’s definitely more to the story than I expected, and I’ll be curious to see what Kirsten does next.(less)