5 captures
12 Jan 2011 - 03 Dec 2020
About this capture
Top GOP officials fear the White House could slip through their fingers next year unless a new chairman of integrity and managerial competence emerges.
Ralph Z. Hallow
BOOK REVIEW: 'The Dinosaur Hunter'
By Mark Hensch
The Washington Times
11:15 a.m., Friday, January 7, 2011
View Comment(s)
Enlarge Text|Shrink
Do you think gas prices will hit $4 a gallon in 2011?
View results
By Homer Hickam
Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99 311 pages
Readers delving into the pages of Homer Hickam's "The Dinosaur Hunter" will unearth as much a mess as they will the tale's supposed mystery. In this latest effort, the author of "Rocket Boys" (the inspiration for the film "October Sky") and "Back to the Moon" awkwardly attempts mixing paleontology with police sleuthing. The resulting plot is as dry as the Montana plains its characters inhabit, an ultimately frustrating work given its intriguing premise.
"The Dinosaur Hunter" starts strong, introducing readers to the inimitable protagonist Mike Wire. An ex-Los Angeles homicide detective, Wire spends his days scraping by as a Montana ranch hand and his nights longing for his widowed boss, Jeanette Coulter. His voice is an interesting one, the perfect mix of self-effacing comedy and cowboy slang. Wire also affirms Mr. Hickam's talent for creating likable characters, made memorable by the author's rustic but wry storytelling.
Sadly, it is one of Mr. Hickam's other skills that stops his current work short of the finish line. Where his previous tales deftly balanced action with academic know-how, "The Dinosaur Hunter" collapses under the added weight of an unfolding whodunit. Wire's quiet country life is disrupted when a pack of paleontologists exposes a mother lode of rare dinosaur fossils on his employer's range. The find sparks a passive-aggressive struggle between all manner of federal and private interests, and the mystery takes shape when someone starts slaying cattle (and eventually people) in conjunction with the fossils' excavation. Taking on the ever-cliched one last case, Wire finds he can best protect the paleontologists and his adopted home by rediscovering the detective skills he abandoned a decade earlier.
Given Mr. Hickam has masterfully mixed engrossing writing and empirical science on numerous other occasions, it is disappointing to find the story unravel somewhat because of these weaker elements.
Nevertheless, Mr. Hickam has done his homework, having crafted informative and interesting pieces of dinosaur trivia spouted by the book's chief paleontologist, Dr. Norman "Pick" Pickford. Pickford offers a compelling yin to Wire's yang, offsetting the grizzled cowboy with a hippie-professor persona straight out of a New Age commune. He's a mad genius, giving readers impromptu Saurian seminars here, bizarre philosophical soliloquies on time there. His coupling with Wire also provides the novel's most interesting moments given most of the other characters are caricatures of cowboys, bureaucrats or criminals.
It's a world where "common folks" shoot straight, the government governs ineffectively and the bad guys start off sleazy before ending sleazier. Mr. Hickam tries hiding this conventional formula by granting each of his stereotypes a minor distinguishing trait - his bureaucrats, for example, allow for brief asides on the perils of expanding government. It's a nifty trick, one that almost makes readers forget how familiar some of the characters feel.
Unfortunately, "The Dinosaur Hunter" falls apart as it ambles toward its unsatisfying end. The story's pace slows to a sluggish crawl when it becomes apparent neither the dinosaur digs nor the recurring crimes will contain fulfilling conclusions. Without giving too much away, the former ends with underwhelming results and the latter ends with one of the most outrageous cases of deus ex machina imaginable. The final effect is one of lethargy, almost as if the story has given up like some beast sinking into a tar pit after a difficult struggle.
This doesn't mean there aren't strong bones in the book's narrative skeleton. It's at times funny, at others educational. Dinosaur experts and novices alike should have a field day with the wealth of prehistoric knowledge scattered around the plot like so many bone fragments. Western fans will be surprised by how often their favorite genre peeks out of Mr. Hickam's writing. The novel's grand finale, for its part, proves action-packed despite its implausibility.
It all makes for a case of too little, too late. "The Dinosaur Hunter" has evolved far enough up the literary family tree to provide occasional entertainment, but it can't hide its flaws. It's a short read, but one too meandering and mild for its own good. Chances are that most readers will relegate this to the annals of prehistory, forgetting it as it dissolves into the past.
Story Continues →
‹‹ previous12next ››
© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
View all comment(s) on this article.
China tests stealth fighter as Gates meets with Hu
By Reuben F. Johnson - The Washington Times
China carried out the first flight test of an advanced stealth fighter as visiting Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates raised questions about the jet during a meeting in Beijing with China's president. Published 8:49 p.m. January 11, 2011
Oil panel comes up dry on offshore drilling
By Patrice Hill - The Washington Times
A report from a presidential commission Tuesday did little to break the political deadlock over offshore drilling, prompting some observers to warn that the United States is headed toward another gas-price crunch this summer. Published 9:05 p.m. January 11, 2011
Showdown over Steele dominates RNC gathering
By Ralph Z. Hallow - The Washington Times
Top GOP officials fear the White House could slip through their fingers next year unless a new Republican National Committee chairman of integrity and managerial competence emerges as the victor in Friday's elections. Published 7:25 p.m. January 11, 2011
Biden reasures Pakistan in speech as bomb kills 16World
Floods pour into Brisbane; 20,000 homes in dangerWorld
Hezbollah resigns from Lebanese governmentWorld
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Forbidden Table Talk
Political satirist and Christian apologist Bob Siegel discusses religion and politics.
A liberal bargain: Silence a whole movement for the price of one man
A bomber’s scapegoat: Did you hear the one about the Muslim, the Christian and the Jew?
Dispatches From The Heartland
Community life and leadership lessons.
A growing chasm: America's political class and the real world
After the Great Recession: A search for balance
Zadzooks - Comics and Video Games
Joseph Szadkowski covers the best and worst in comic books, video games and action figures.
Blu-ray review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8
Video game review: Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Making Change
People getting involved in helping others and making a difference.
Public employee pay: Help or hindrance?
Has your group made a resolution?
All site contents © Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC
About | Customer Service | Terms of Use | Contact Us | Privacy
Edit My ProfileEdit PasswordLogoutLog InE-Mail AlertsSUBSCRIBECLASSIFIEDSE-EDITIONRSS