Review: Bones of the Earth--Michael Swanwick


While this is a much more accurate, much finer story than Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, it still rates only about a three out of five. The primary reason for this is a too-long stretch of sexual healing through group grope that casts its jaded, gloomy shadow over the final portions of the novel. Absoutely unnecessary in every regard, this theme adds nothing and detracts considerably from a fascinating story about time travel, dinosaurs, and paradox. At moments, the novel approaches philosophy--as when one of the characters engaged in time travel refers to their actions as predestined. The predestination in this book seem rather like the Calvinist double predestination. However, as this can all be undone, it is not really predestinaiton at all.

The novel traces a band of paleontologists and paleontological groupies as they travel through time giving papers and visiting the lost vistas of the past. Time travel has been given as a gift from "The Unchanging," with the proviso that those using it do not introduce paradox into the time stream. Time travel is used exclusively for visiting the Mesozoic era and studying dinosaurs upclose.

We are almost immediately given anod to Ray Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder," when one of the characters tells another, "You can step on as many butterflies as you want and kill as many dinosaurs, it has already happened."

Time travel is threatened by (what else) a reactionary group of fundamentalists who seek to destroy the whole notion for purposes that don't make any sense whatsoever, except perhaps that it allows the author to express his antipathy toward a group of people he obviously neither understands nor has any tolerance for.

Plot logic lapses such as this, and extraneous elements both detract from a neat and interesting story line. In the hands of a more controlled writer (I won't say more capable because Swanwick is truly a talented writer) this book could have been about a hundred pages shorter and a good deal less offensive to those who hold any sort of religious views.

It is worthwhile to read for the dinosaurs, the paleontology, and the inside look at some of the battles that rage through the scientific world. However, I must say that the negatives nearly overwhelm any positive aspects the novel may have. For most of y'all, I'd suggest giving it a big miss.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 7, 2004 6:52 AM.

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