This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.
Next up on Team Space Lasagna’s plate is The Dinosaur Four, by Geoff Jones.
For some hilarious reason this book was misattributed as “time travel dinosaur erotica” among the SPSFC reviewers and as such we have all been looking forward to reading it. As it happens, we were right to be anticipating it – but not because it was a titillating carnal romp through the Cretaceous era. I mean, what would that even be like? Maybe Jones can take up his pen and get to work on that, because apparently reviewers be horny.
But no. What we got was goddamn brilliant and make no mistake, I was far happier that the leprous hadrosaurs didn’t fuck anyone.
What am I talking about and why am I still making it weird?
The Dinosaur Four opens in the Daily Edition Café where Lisa, the owner, is soliloquising about taxes and liquor licenses and the absurdity of being allowed to sell alcohol before you can drink it. The barista, Beth, flirts briefly with a delivery man named William and makes reference to his large package. Please keep in mind, at this point I still thought I was reading erotica so I had a really solid idea of where this was heading. The only question in my mind was whether William was a Chuck-Tinglian T-Rex delivery man with abs for days, or Beth was going to turn out to be a saucy Madame Vastra type. Or both, to the lyrical but total detriment of the protagonist’s ass.
Anyway, that didn’t happen.
The café, along with a fun little crowd of positively Stephen-King-worthy employees and customers, is abruptly transported to the distant past where they all get absolutely fucking bodied by dinosaurs (not in that way) for a couple of hundred pages.
It’s fucking glorious.
I was, as I said, immediately reminded of Stephen King – specifically The Mist, The Langoliers, and other neatly contained dramas. My initial thought was that maybe King would make more compelling or grimy characters more instantly identifiable and distinctive (Tim remained something of a nonentity for a while but – and this is the great bit – I’m pretty sure he was meant to), but there’s no shame in being out-grimy-charactered by Stephen King. However, as I read on, I realised that Jones had actually just gone a more slow-burn and subtle road with his protagonists. They may not have been as gross, but they were all just as distinctive and – if anything – more relatable, making everything that much more horrific.
I can’t say much more without spoiling various plot points and revelations, so I won’t – except to say that Lisa could probably have remembered and mentioned certain things a bit sooner and more readily than she did, and to wonder whether I missed a part that explained how “invisibility cloak” became “time travel” – was the former just a cover and I just missed the discarding of said cover? Anyway, read the book and you’ll see what I mean.
The characters were really great. Don’t be discouraged by the take-off – once they’re airborne, they really soar. Patricia is a giant Karen, Callie and Hank are a complete goddamn train wreck, and Al … Jesus Christ, Al. But for me, perhaps my favourite part of the story was just when you start thinking things are going to settle down for the Act III coast, and one of the characters … how to put this? They give their little group a name and it’s not the name of the book and you realise things are about to get so much worse.
Very good. Very, very good.
For all the sweet-to-gross spectrum of human interpersonal relations taking place in this story, the horniest thing in it was the triceratops. Am I right? *goes up for high five and is left hanging, and deservedly so*. Fuck it. I guess my point is there wasn’t really any sex in this. Two desperately sad and awkward mother-shamed Al-boners from accidentally-on-purpose side-boob contact while hugging out of a possible five. I would have awarded it one desperately sad and awkward mother-shamed Al-boner from accidentally-on-purpose side-boob contact while hugging, but I just remembered that the T-Rex does in fact eat a giant bag of ticks, so there’s that. And no, that wasn’t a typo.
Amazing. No notes. Four and a half flesh-gobbets out of five. I’m still giving us a final half-gobbet to fill out if an absolute fucking bloodbath crosses my Kindle because recalibrating the gore-o-meter isn’t cheap and I’m doing these reviews for free, but something tells me we’re not going to get much more gory than this one.
This is a time travel adventure with a solid dose of causality and timeline-crossing and all of that. It would be weird if it didn’t register on the WTF-o-meter. One thing I was really interested in at the start of the story was how gross and diseased the dinosaurs were, and for a while I wondered if that was a plot point that was going to end up being significant. But I think in the end it just turned out to be a gritty, realistic look at how fucking disgusting giant feathery lizards would actually be, with an emphasis on the stuff we tend to sanitise out of our dinosaur lore. Jones is clearly an enthusiast and he’s done his research. I give The Dinosaur Four an Al’s mother out of a possible Toomey’s father (and that’s not as minor a reading as you might think).
My Final Verdict
Glorious. Just fantastic. I have no more words. Okay I lied; five stars.