Sheherazahde's Reviews > Rex Riders

Rex Riders by J.P. Carlson
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's review
Aug 18, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: dinosaurs, young-adult
Read in June, 2011

Fourteen-year-old orphan Zeke Calhoun couldn't do anything to right as far as his Uncle Jesse McCain was concerned. But when a triceratops rampages through the small Texas town of Dos Locos, Zeke shows bravery and quick thinking rescuing young Angelina Con Fuego and her mother Maria. In 1881 no one in town even knows what a triceratops is but that is only the beginning of their trouble. Soon Dante D'Allessandro, the richest man in town, starts getting foreign guests and building watchtowers on his ranch. Then Zeke finds a strange lizard man, unconscious, with seven bullets in him, lying in a gully, next to his T-Rex mount. [return][return]If you want to read a book about cowboys, dinosaurs, and alien lizard men you aren't looking for great literature. You are probably looking for a bit of fun and a light read. This book is that. It's a rollicking good yarn, a boy's own adventure![return][return]I believe this is author J. P. Carlson's first novel. I hope he writes more. This is a good first novel, but not a great first novel. It could do with a bit of editing and I hope he continues to work on his storytelling skills. Maria Con Fuego is introduced as Maria Del Fuego at first, that sort of error should have been caught in editing (and I think he should have stuck with Del Fuego instead). The Rex Rider himself (it appears to be a title) is from a race called the Tarngatharn, his word for tyrannosaurus rex is yerka and his mount's name is Gixkarnu but he never says what his personal name is. Stumpy names him Slim without even asking what he is usually called. There are lots of wonderful black and white illustrations in the book but no pictures of the Cragnon. Probably because they are never described. Slim says they are not like him, but then describes how their culture is different not any physical description, so they may be the same race. I just don't know. [return][return]I had trouble getting into the beginning because character's motivations seemed a bit superficial. The plot moves forward in a jumpy way: this happens, and then this happens, and then this happens. Zeke keeps a firm grip on "the stupid ball" to move the action along. There were times when I could feel how shaky the plot was and had to remind myself not to poke at it lest the whole structure come tumbling down. [return][return]There are some modern updates to the old Western, "red Indians" are called Native Americans (although there are none in this story). And there is a spunky girl character who helps Zeke instead of just needing rescuing. When the French Canadian trapper gives measurements in meters I googled the metric system and found out that it was standard in all the French territories by the 1800s. [return][return]The narrator does a lot of exposition, It is positively educational at times. i.e. "Fire was extremely dangerous in the old west since ranchers had no way of putting it out, and even a small fire could quickly become a catastrophe if the conditions were right." That's not always a bad thing but I think the author needs to remember the old writer's maxim "Show, don't tell". It is particularly glaring on page 184 when the author takes five paragraphs to outline a story that would make a perfectly good novel in itself, with a different main character, an adult. The author needs to remember that characters are the heart of a good story. The characters are not there just to move the author's plot forward. Remember: who is the protagonist and what does he want? [return][return]It occurs to me that J. P. Carlson is a moral liberal. I first noticed that the good guys never kill anyone even when provoked and their lives are in danger. Plenty of people die: eaten by dinosaurs, trampled by dinosaurs, crushed by falling buildings, murdered by bad guys. But good guys don't kill people. Then I realized that the big bad guys are not punished for their crimes. The bad guys are thwarted. The good guys triumph. Good and bad alike die or are murdered. But the big bad guys escape without being punished. A moral conservative would never allow that. [return][return]Overall this book reminds me Edgar Rice Burroughs. Full of pulpy goodness. I think if J. P. Carlson keeps writing these stories he could become a successful and popular author. I'm looking forward to "Rex Riders: The Legend of the Quetzalcoatl" I would happily give this book to a teenage boy who was interested in cowboys, dinosaurs, and aliens.

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