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The Dechronization of Sam Magruder

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  235 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
This newly discovered novella by the century's most renowned paleontologist bears comparison to H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. Vanishing on February 30, 2162, Sam Magruder, a fortyish research chronologist, finds himself thrown into the prehistoric Jurassic era, a time when dinosaurs roamed the planet, and he, endowed with the intelligence of a 22nd-century man, is the only ...more
Hardcover, 136 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by St. Martin's Press
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For some reason I picked this book up immediately after finishing Ionesco's Rhinoceros and Other Plays. Needless to say by the time I finished this one I felt like someone had slipped a psychedelic into my ginger ale.

First and foremost for those who are wondering - yes, it is that George Gaylord Simpson. The paleontologist. I didn't even make the connection when I snagged this from the library. I was drawn in by the title, and when I saw that the Introduction was provided by Arthur C. Clarke and
Silver Thistle {adores JAFF & TEOTWAWKI.  Oh, and accronyms :P}
This is such a great little story! The bright pink cover is at odds with the storyline but don't let that put you off, I actually quite like the's 'quirky'. A very quick read and therein lies it's only ended too soon. I hung on every word and would have liked to see many, many more of them.

The book was only ever intended as an amusement for the author (the George Gaylord Simson), but by chance it was found after his death and published, and lucky for us that it was.

Short s
Page Wench
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Time Travelphiles
Shelves: sci-fi
Sam Magruder takes a fascinating trip both physically and philosophically. I don't want to say more than that because I would ruin it. Suffice to say I was impressed with the mode of time transport and anyone who is even the least bit intrigued by time travel should read this story.
Bastian Greshake
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This one is a treat. A time-travel novella written by the George Gaylord Simpson, found by his family after his death. Which then managed to win Stephen Jay Gould and Arthur C. Clarke for an afterword and the introduction!

The novella itself is solid, maybe a bit slow at length, given how short the overall text is. But the slow parts are there for some interesting reasons, as SJ Gould points out nicely in his afterword.

Definitely worth a read if you are a) interested in time travel stories b) li
This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For
This novella has a strange background. It is written by George Gaylord Simpson, the greatest paleontologist and one of the best evolutionary biologists of the 20th century. The manuscript wasn't discovered by his daughter until 10 years after his death. It is the story of a 22nd century scientist who accidentally ends up 80 million years in the past, during the Cretaceous. It is the story of his observations of the dinosaurs and mammals of the time, and how a (post) modern man survives with no m ...more
Pete Young
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simpson was the most famous paleontologist in the world with a specialisation in the early period of when dinosaurs and mammals co-existed, so with the posthumous publication of Magruder he surprised everyone with what is essentially a short but very competent science fiction novel in which a 22nd century time experiment throws a chronologist back to the Cretaceous Period. It was probably written for Simpson’s own amusement in the 1970s, given that that decade is bracketed by a 1970 theory on th ...more
Christopher Roth
Only two stars. This book was touted as the best book on time travel since Wells's "Time Machine." So I expected it would have, you know, character development or some interesting philosophical ideas in it. I'll never learn.
Aug 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Story itself is so-so, but the book gives an insight into the mind of a famous and well-known paleontologist. As much of a self-exploration as it is a novel. An interesting read by an author who, like his own protagonist, found himself on the wrong side of history.
Gary   Allen
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm not normally a Sci-Fi fan but this remarkable novel by the last century's leading paleontologist had me hooked right from the start.

(don't skip the forward by Arthur C Clarke and afterword by Stephen Jay Gould)
Oct 20, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was initially attracted to this because of the hot-pink cover and the author's middle name. It's more tech-heavy than I'd usually read, but I did enjoy its meandering philosophies.
Emily Park
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Every now and then, one reads a book that makes the reader simultaneously feel very smart and somewhat stupid. This book is one of those. Written by one of the most celebrated paleontologists to ever live, this novel has an impressive scientific pedigree that's apparent just from reading the author's name on the cover. In addition, the book has an introduction by Arthur C. Clarke (!!!), and an afterword by Stephen Jay Gould (!!!!!!!!!). I don't think you c
Definitely a bit of a curiosity, more of a thought experiment than a novel - Simpson was a preeminent paleontologist, and this fiction sees him engaging with the somewhat arcane debates that exercised the paleontologist community at the time. Certainly very different from the steampunk style time travel fiction that dominates the genre today.
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dechronization of Sam Magruder is a strange little novella that is equal parts time travel story, homage to H.G. Wells and paleontological argument. The author, George Gaylord Simpson, was one of the most influential and prolific evolutionists and paleontologists of the 20th century, if not all time. More curiously, he wasn’t a fiction writer. Of the 15 books he wrote or contributed to, only the posthumously published Dechronization approached the genre of science fiction and even then from ...more
Peter Tillman
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Worth a look, especially for the essays included

This slim novella, by the late and distinguished paleontologist, was
found in his papers after his death. It's just so-so as fiction, in my
opinion, but the book is worth your attention for the two elegant essays
included. The first, by Arthur C. Clarke, outlines the history of time-travel
stories, and includes more recommendations for classic dinosaur tales.
Sir Arthur notes, with admirable succintness, that "the most convincing
argument against [real]
Ashley Minnich
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I approached the science fiction/fantasy section of my library. I was pulling out Neil Gaiman books to read for my 2015 reading challenge. I ran across this book. The title interested me, even if the cover was a bright and unsightly shade of Pepto-Bismol pink. I picked it up anyway. Apparently, it was written by a vertebrate paleontologist who was considered to be one of the greatest in his field in the 20th century (he also looks like the person they modeled John Hammond after (the creator of t ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
G.G. Simpson was one of the greatest biologists of the 20th century, and a man who had vast impact on paleontology and evolutionary biology. This book was left among his papers, and was published by his daughter long after his death. The book is a decent tale of a man cast back into the Cretaceous era who must find a way to live among the dinosaurs, and who must also struggle with the reality of being the only human in the universe. There are many descriptions, anachronistic though they may be a ...more
man sends himself back to prehistoric days, figures out how to inscribe text on stone as a record for future readers.

the first lines of the book (slightly edited) are:

What would you do, what could you do if you knew you were going to be utterly alone for the rest of your life?"

now that's a premise worth exploring. but alas, the book spends more time on dinosaurs.

i guess one's feeling for this book would really depend on what you wanted from it. i wanted what the first line promised--the psychol
Apr 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who can't think of a DeLorean without thinking of a Flex Capacitor
The only evidence we have of Sam Magruder is some writing on a few stone tablets recently discovered from the Cretaceous period. Seems ole Sam was accidentilly sent back in time on a one-way trip back to pre-history, with no hope of ever returning. Thankfully he detailed his adventures in the hope that some distant future generation might unearth the truth of his fate.

Why Sam Magruder is not in the pantheon of time travelers along with Marty McFly, the Terminator, Time Bandits or the Connecticu
Linda B.D.
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit, I skimmed the first few pages. It was boring. Actually, the author put the most important things at the end. The daughter of a scientist found this manuscript 10 years after her fathers death, completed it & made this book. It was not at all what I was expecting. He was sent back in time ALONE to live among dinosaurs and left notes of what he learned hoping that man would find his notes written on stone & learn all the truth about dinosaurs. It needed more than one character. Al ...more
Jeff Raymond
Jun 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
More a novella than a novel, it's still a fun take on the time travel thing except with dinosaurs! A man figures out how time slips work and actually slips back into time, and leaves a series of tablets detailing what he sees and experiences. It's interspersed with far-future beings/humans who are reading and interpreting the stuff, so it ends up being pretty straightforward and fun.

At the length it is, there's little to dislike overall. On one hand, might have been nice to have a longer story o
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I, with my background in BioAnthro and evolutionary science, saw this book was written by the great evolutionary theorist/paleontologist G.G.Simpson, introduced by the great science/scifi writer A.C.Clarke, and recommended (and commented on) by S.J.Gould, paleontologist, and writer on evolution/science history, how could I NOT pick it up? Now that I have finally read it, I am only disappointed that I hadn't read it earlier. A classic sci-fi time travel novella in the tradition of Wells, Hei ...more
Sep 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This slim novel was found in Simpson's papers 10 years after his death. He was a famous vertebrate paleontologist who wrote lots of scientific books during his illustrious career, but this is fiction. It's the story of Sam Magruder who goes back in time to the age of the dinosaurs. Magruder is alone- the only human for a billion years, and most of the transcendent bits of the novel deal with how he copes. It's a lovely, haunting little book.
An good way to occupy yourself for an evening. It is a rather short book, but it is an interesting story. Crafted by one of the most influential palaeontologists ever, it has fascinating descriptions of dinosaurs as understood at the time of writing. Notably absent are the now popular theories of mass extinction through asteroid, and the fact that many dinosaurs were probably feathered instead of scaly. Obviously not written by a survivalist or a psychologist, but still worth the read.
Apr 19, 2013 rated it liked it
A quick but worthwhile read, especially if you have any interest in time travel or dinosaur stories, along with their related fields of science and history (anthropology, etc.). Good context is provided by the introduction, afterword, and other notes. Not really a full-length novel, I guess this should be called a novella, but it's probably the best novella ever written by someone with Gaylord in their name.
Daniel Garrison
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea how I came across this book, it's not one you see hanging around the bookshop much. But however I found it, I'm really glad I did. I love time travel stories and this was a good one. And who doesn't love dinosuars? It's a nice, easy read and it's a short book, which is a bit of a pity as I didn't want it to end.

I don't know much about paleontology but ethnology and philosophy are two of my favorite subjects, especially as they appear in science fiction. This slim sci-fi novel was filled with rather heavy philosophical ideas, even if it only touched on them briefly and barely explored them. Very interesting!!
Chanel Earl
Feb 28, 2015 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed reading this and wish it had been longer. I think its brevity was great because it kept the story moving, but bad because it didn't allow for a lot of development in Sam. I would have liked it to have been twice as long.

I think my kids will really enjoy this when they get a bit older. The descriptions of the dinosaurs and life in the cretaceous were very fun.
Aug 13, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Considering the nutty premise, this book was very understated. I wish it was longer so there could have been more details. For example, Magruder's months of hard work to make fire go by in about 2 sentences... I really liked the descriptions of the dinosaurs.
Mar 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stumbled upon this at a Friends of Palo Alto Library book sale. Written by a famous paleontologist and published posthumously it tells the story of a man who gets accidentally sent by himself with no tools to the Cretaceous period but who leaves stone tablets engraved with his story.
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reads like a perfect turn of the (19th) century early science fiction . Easy to see the comparison to Wells or Verne.
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