Friday, April 17, 2015

Review me Twice - Raptor Red by Robert T. Baker

Alex always seems to pick interesting books for us, and I was excited to see what she was going to for sci-fi month.  I had never even heard of this book (though, apparently it's kind of a big deal.)  I don't read a lot of dinosaur literature because, frankly, there's just not a lot out there.  I've read Jurassic Park and The Lost World and that's pretty much where it ends.

Raptor Red is a different beast entirely.  It's very much one of those non-fiction novel type books.  The book itself is based in fact.  Bakker has done a ton of research on these animals and the book is probably a pretty accurate portrayal of what life was like for a Utahraptor.  But we can't ever actually know for sure.  It's all a big educated guess, so it sets it very firmly in the fiction section of the library.

The book was well executed and interesting to read.  I feel like I learned a lot about dinosaurs without feeling like I LEARNED, laboriously, about dinosaurs.  But, as interesting and fun as it was.... it was still a book about dinosaurs, that were meant to BE dinos, not humanized characters.  So I found myself growing kind of bored at times because I couldn't really connect with the characters.  There are parts that I should have been sad and I just kind of wasn't.

I'm glad I picked it up, but I won't ever read it again.

Everything Cassy said, exactly. I can't really identify with a dinosaur (or any character, even) whose entire purpose is surviving and mating. So while everything was interesting and informative and definitely unique - I've never read another book like this - I didn't feel very invested in the protagonist. Although, I did feel more invested than I would have been in the hands of a less skilled writer, so that's something.

I love when fiction like this is heavily anchored in fact, but there's one very easy trap to fall into. I first noticed it in the Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel... the author seems to want to make sure they put every bit of their research to good use in the writing. So even if it doesn't really matter exactly what that plant she stepped on is good for, we're going to hear about it. Possibly for a paragraph, or a page. Bakker's execution of this seems more natural, so it's not nearly as much of a problem. For example, one chapter begins with saying the raptor doesn't want to bed down in moist earth, and no raptors do, because they evolved in a dry climate and too much moisture encourages fungal growth which is bad for them. Interesting, related to the plot in the sense that this is the reason she doesn't want to sleep in the mud, and possibly a little more info than we strictly needed, but then we move on to bigger and better things. I think the difference is probably that dinos were Bakker's first thing, then writing, whereas Auel started with writing and then started the research on primitive humans. Either way, it's not a deterrent for this book; I just thought it was interesting to note.

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