Robert T. Bakker
Raptor Red (1995)
Reviewed: 1997-01-26

Traveling in the wake of the recent wave of dinomania stirred up by Jurassic Park, this book is a rare example of paleontological fiction, literally an instance of science fiction. Robert Bakker chose a novel to further popularize his controversial ideas on some aspects of dinosaur biology and particularly their social life, portraying them as much more similar to modern day birds than lizards.

Set in the early Cretaceous period, Raptor Red closely follows the life of a young female utahraptor for a year's time. (A utahraptor is a raptor the size of those in the movie Jurassic Park.) The reader accompanies her throughout many dangerous hunts, the continuous search for food, the death of her mate, desperate fights against competing predators, natural disasters, her life with the pack of her sister, and happiness with a new mate. Not surprisingly, the nature of the protagonist prevents plot complexity above that of a children's book and indeed, with the almost universal appeal of dinosaurs to children, this novel may hold a particular fascination for younger readers.

Bakker clearly tries to convey a comprehensive picture of large life in the Cretaceous, and where it fits in with the overall evolutionary development that led to our modern world. As a result, the book often reads more like a popular science article than a novel. That abysmal word, "edutainment", might actually be appropriate here. In an epilogue the author draws from his experience as a fossil hunter to present some rationales for his portrayal of many aspects of dinosaur life.

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