The newest Michael Crichton novel, published by his wife almost a decade after his death, is a gem of a book. However, don’t expect “Dragon Teeth” to read like most of his other books. Instead of technology, you will find a young man growing up. Instead of pure fiction, you will find a story based on real people who feuded with each other in the 1870s. Instead of the future, you will find the past.
The tale begins with William Johnson, a pampered young student at Yale University in 1876. When another student says he would never survive in the Wild West, William impulsively joins Othniel Charles Marsh’s archeological team to search for dinosaur bones in Indian territory. Part-way through the trip, he is abandoned, and joins a rival paleontologist Edwin Drinker Cope. What began as something fun for William turns into life and death, and by the end of the story the Wild West has made him tough as nails.
I loved the fast pace and the simple plot of the story. There was nothing complicated about it, no great mystery, just a great historic novel about human rivalry and the challenges of growing up.
You’ve probably seen the movie – but have you read the novel? There is so much more detail in the book – the investigation after the little girl is bitten, Alan Grant’s career in paleontology, John Hammond’s eccentric personality, and many more monologues by the philosophical Ian Malcolm. You get to see into the minds of the other characters, like Henry Wu (the geneticist), Mr. Gennaro (the financier), John Allan (the chain-smoking computer guy), and the annoying Dennis Nedry.
For those not familiar with the novel or the movie, the characters are part of a team that is dispatched to an island off the coast of Central America, where extinct animals have been artificially re-created. All sorts of things go wrong, and the characters find themselves hiding, fighting, running, and trying to outsmart the animals. It’s hard to put this book down because there is constantly a crisis.
My favorite character is Ian Malcolm. His non-stop talking and sarcastic comments about science, chaos theory, and how smart or stupid people and dinosaurs are, added depth to the story. It definitely makes one think about scientific research, and how far is too far.