Dragon Teeth

y450-293Dragon Teeth

by Michael Crichton

It is 1876 and arrogant, entitled William Johnson is attending Yale as a freshman.  On a dare from his chief student rival at the University, he joins a summer expedition led by the notoriously eccentric paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh.  Marsh becomes convinced that William is a spy for his sworn enemy, Edward Drinker Cope, and abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Desperate to finish the challenge, William joins the expedition led by Cope, and soon they make a discovery of profound proportions, one that brings with it great danger as well.  William’s courage and strength are tested at every turn as he strives to keep Cope’s precious treasure safe.

One thing I found interesting about this book and that prompted me to do some research after reading it was that some of the characters were real historical figures.  Paleontologists Marsh and Cope were bitter rivals in the nineteenth century, each striving to outdo the other and to receive recognition for the most important discoveries.  This led to what was known as the Bone Wars, a period in which these two men employed every means possible to undermine the other, deceiving, sabotaging, and spying on each other without scruple.  The result was their eventual social and financial ruin.  There were other characters in the book that had existed in real life, but Marsh and Cope were the most important and central to the story.

The author develops his main character very well.  In the beginning, William is an intelligent but spoiled young man, who expects things to happen the way he likes and becomes angry when they do not.  As time passes and he spends more time in the West, his sense of entitlement begins to fade as he grows tough under the conditions of physical and mental strain in which he was placed.

One of the things I really like about Dragon Teeth is that it has a bit of an old-fashioned tone, as if it was written a long time ago.  This gives it a certain eloquence and poise that is often not found in contemporary books.  I also like how the author included snippets from William’s fictional journal that make it seem like the story really happened.   For a while, he actually had me wondering if this book was based on a true story.  As I mentioned earlier, the setting is based on true events, but William himself is a fictional character.

What made this book most interesting to me was the author’s technique of mixing reality and make-believe.  Enough of this story is based on true events to make it seem plausible, while at the same time it is fictional enough so that the author can place his signature on it and incorporate his own twists.

There is no inappropriate use of language or questionable scenes.  I would recommend this book for all ages, though as with most books, the older one is, the more one can enjoy it.  It is not particularly fast-paced or suspenseful, but the author eloquently described William’s adventures, which were exciting enough, and skillfully added a touch of humor where appropriate.  All in all, this would make a good addition to your reading list.

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