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Dinotopia Lost
Alan Dean Foster
Ace Books, 326 pages


Art: James Gurney
Dinotopia Lost
Alan Dean Foster
Alan Dean Foster was born in New York City in 1946 and was raised in Los Angeles. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema from UCLA in 1968-69 and then spent two years as a copywriter for an advertising and public relations firm in Studio City, CA.

His first sale as a writer was a long Lovecraftian letter, purchased by August Derleth for the bi-annual magazine The Arkham Collector. His first novel, The Tar-Aiym Krang, was published by Ballantine Books in 1972. Many, many novels followed. Alan Dean Foster's correspondence and manuscripts are in the Special Collection of the Hayden Library of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Foster and his wife live in Prescott, Arizona.

Alan Dean Foster Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Star Wars: The Approaching Storm
SF Site Review: Interlopers
SF Site Review: Phylogenesis
SF Site Review: Into the Thinking Kingdoms
SF Site Review: Carnivores of Light and Darkness
Alan Dean Foster Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

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Released to coincide with the recent (May 2002) television broadcast of a Dinotopia mini-series, Dinotopia Lost is a completely different story. It has nothing to do with the TV show other than that both are based on James Gurney's wonderfully detailed paintings of humans interacting with dinosaurs in a fantasy-like setting. The publicity would have it that Dinotopia is an isolated island somewhere in the Indian Ocean where humans and intelligent dinosaurs co-exist harmoniously. Occasional human refugees from the outer world seem happy enough to chuck their old careworn way of life for the pastoral lifestyle of Dinotopia. Leaving aside some questions about the dinos' lack of physical evolution across millions of years (and the problem with a big chunk of land remaining undiscovered by generations of mariners), Dinotopia is not exactly Plato's Republic. In place of philosophical ruminations -- which would not sell many books -- Alan Dean Foster provides a fast-moving adventure story.

It's that time of year on Dinotopia when storms are most prevalent. Indeed, it's the climax of a six-year cycle and the storms that lash the northern end of the island are expected to be much more violent that usual. The book opens with groups of settlers packing up their belongings and moving away from the coast. The action then shifts to a pirate vessel on the high seas, captained by Brognar Blackstrap of the good (bad?) ship Condor. Blackstrap and his intellectual first mate, Priester Smiggens, lead as scurvy a band of cutthroats as one could hope to find on the Seven Seas. (Although they utter some colorful curses these boyos never veer off into profanity, which seems a bit odd for such hardened rogues. The marketing department must have had family readers in mind. Yar!)

Flung ashore on the northern end of Dinotopia, the pirates find themselves on what appears to be an uninhabited island. They set out exploring in hopes of finding fresh water and game, and almost at once run into a family of Struthiomimuses on a camping holiday. Human chauvinism being what it is, it takes Blackstrap and his hearties some time to realize that the struthies are not the dumb animals they appear to be. By that time, however, the youngest female member of the family has managed to free herself. She flees, intending to reach the nearest human city and get help.

Unfortunately, the pirates, with the struthie's family, have wandered into a region ruled by carnivorous dinosaurs. These creatures, no less intelligent than any of the other dinos on the island, have nevertheless rejected the idea of civilization in favor of living the savage life of their predatory ancestors. Blackstrap and his men capture a small dinosaur to replace the escaped struthie female, but they don't realize that what they have snagged is a baby tyrannosaurus named Prettykill, whose parents are not at all happy to find their darling missing.

Anyway, it's all rather lightweight and undemanding. Foster has done better work, but he is obviously a pro and knows how to stir the mix to keep the audience entertained. Decent summertime reading if you don't question the book's assumptions too closely.

Copyright © 2002 A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois has been reading and writing science fiction since he was in single digits. He is now closer to triple digits than he cares to think about. His personal site is at http://www.alsirois.com.


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