Review: Dragon Teeth

Michael Crichton’s most recent posthumously published novel, Dragon Teeth, released in 2017, tracks a fictitious young man coming of age on a journey into the American West, where he interacts with quite real people and observes fictionalized versions of real events from the era. It’s ostensibly about the Bone Wars, the dynamite rivalry between paleontologists Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, and that is certainly part of the story, but it’s also an Old West tale where Deadwood features prominently, something I didn’t expect but that makes sense given the setting and the twists and turns of the novel’s plot. Unlike Crichton’s signature techno-thrillers, it’s more a historical adventure like one of his early novels, The Great Train Robbery (which I have not read), and that makes quite a bit of sense, as the Dragon Teeth manuscript (or at least the basic idea behind the story) was apparently started in 1974, a year before the publication of The Great Train Robbery. It also reminds me a bit of Pirate Latitudes (which I have read), his first posthumously published work and a similarly fun historical adventure, starring pirates instead of cowboys.

While Dragon Teeth was fun and breezy to read, it also covers interesting subject matter and manages to provide a fairly complex and frank take on the expansion west by American citizens into indigenous lands, albeit through the perspective of the wealthy American protagonist. As per usual, the book feels well-researched and demonstrates that Crichton took liberties with historical characters and events, changing and reorganizing as he saw fit to tell the story he wanted without feeling overly bound by how things exactly happened. Outside of that, I don’t find that I have much to say about the story, positively or negatively. It’s not the deepest Crichton novel, but its pulp adventure craft shines.

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