Monday, July 17, 2017
Set in 1876, Dragon Teeth follows William Johnson, an aimless rich college student who makes a $1000 bet with a rival that he'll go west on a paleontology excursion to recover dinosaur bones from the Montana and Wyoming territories. Johnson fulfills the bet, joining the voyage of Yale professor Orthniel Marsh, a paranoid man who has a fierce rivalry with Edward Cope. Heading west, Johnson (a greenhorn if ever there was one) gets pulled into a world of shootouts, saloons, bandits, and, of course, the ongoing war between the U.S. government and the Native American tribes of the western territories.
This is not a great novel. I generally like the late Crichton's books, particularly when he dips his toe into historical fiction (Timeline and The Great Train Robbery are my two favorite Crichton novels), but this book is filled with stereotypes and celebrity run-ins (Robert Louis Stevenson AND Wyatt Earp) that make me cringe. Also, it lacks the researched-within-an-inch-of-its-life feel that were the hallmark of the books published during Crichton's life (he died in 2008). Diehard Crichton fans will appreciate this for its historical significance — an afterword notes that this book dates back to the mid-70s and represents the beginning of the Jurassic Park author's interest in dinosaurs — but I can't really recommend it for any other reason.