Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker
Might contain spoilers.
A phenomenal book. It combines paleontology, nature documentary, and fiction with skill and wonder. It’s gripping and engrossing throughout. True, the story is graphic and filled with viscera, but it doesn’t feel gory and unpleasant. On the contrary, it lends depth to an animal best known as a killing machine in popular culture. At the same time, it carefully and repeatedly notes that the complicated and nuanced thoughts and feelings described are the product of instincts evolved over millions of years, not thoughts or feelings as we understand them. I have to imagine this is what Europasaurus: Life on Jurassic Islands was trying to imitate.
The tale is told so deftly that even unlikely events like the three raptors surviving with the
male consort’s help seem natural. The way Raptor Red saves her niece from the Kronosaurus by
leading the Acrocanthosaurus to it is brilliant, brutal, and portrayed as being the product of
just enough intelligence to pull it off. It’s critical that we see the raptors do more than just
hunt, too; playing is a crucial part of what makes them endearing. (The snow slide is delightful.)
I enjoyed the digressions to explain the lives of other creatures, especially the white dactyl. I felt bad for the giant Utahraptor who had been rejected by so many males… could she really have been 600 pounds heavier than the presumably 500-pound males?
I wonder how much of what the author extrapolated was real. I choose to believe most of it was, and I found myself very moved by his notes at the end about imagining Raptor Red with the eyes of the eagle.
- Not to mention a lot of dung.↩