Author: Michael Crichton
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
“Hunting for bones,” wrote Johnson, “has a peculiar fascination, not unlike hunting for gold. One never knows what one will find, and the possibilities, the potential discoveries lying in wait, fuels the quest.”
I am, and forever will be, a diehard Crichton fan. He had such a way of weaving a story, of seeing the possible in the impossible, of making the make believe into reality. So every time one of these posthumous novel comes out, I snag it up with my greedy little palms. I forget the mediocrity of Pirate Attitudes. I forget the disappointment of Micro. And here I go again.
Dragon Teeth feels equal parts Crichton and not Crichton. The fundamental plot is something he would have charged through, but Dragon Teeth feels like the first, unpolished, not wholly fleshed out manuscript that never had time to come to fruition. Everything about it, including the choppy, awkward dialogue, feels like a rushed first pass (though, admittedly, a first pass an author like Crichton could shop as a manuscript).
I understand the urge to continue to share Crichton’s work with the readers, such as myself, so devoted to him. But it almost feels like a tarnish to his painstaking process now after the fact. Dragon Teeth feels like a novel he wouldn’t have wanted to share with the world, because it wasn’t ready. If only he had had the time, I can’t imagine how much better this novel could have been.
Here are some of the areas where it felt like I could tell it just wasn’t a true Crichton novel:
- Johnson’s quick decision to go, based on terrible dialogue with his “archenemy” who is but a name on the page.
- Marsh’s interrogation of Johnson on the road out West. The dialogue is almost painful, as Marsh repeats the same question over and over, and Johnson retorts the same reply.
- Johnson’s love at first sight with the girl whose real name he doesn’t know.
- The constant back and forth between Cope and Marsh and how it was such a huge rivalry, but in the end neither played as big as a part as you would expect
- Johnson’s character arc, which jumped and changed in linear fashion with a high slope, instead of arching with a gradual curve.
I will say I did rather enjoy Earp. He was by far the most fascinating character and stole each scene he was in. He’s treated as the bumbling drunk, yet he outwits pretty much everyone in this novel.
And this novel has some surprising depth hidden in the shallowness of the adventure adventure plot. Another great quote I loved was: “… much as I hesitate to say such a thing, man becomes smaller when we realize what remarkable beasts went before us.” Not only is it spot on accurate, but it also reflects our place in our ever growing understanding of the enormity of the universe around us. One other quote I’ll leave you with that I particularly enjoyed: “Religion explains what man cannot explain. But when I see something before my eyes, and my religion hastens to assure me that I am mistaken, that I do not see it at all… No, I may no longer be a Quaker, after all.”
In the end, I’m not sure I’d recommend this novel to the casual reader. I think I’d still recommend it to other Crichton fans, just because it’s dinosaurs and the Wild West and more adventure than the novel has time to fully flush out. It isn’t a bad story by any means – the plot has so much potential – it just isn’t the story deserving of the plot.
Now excuse me while I go reread Timeline for the hundredth time.