A kind of story I never expected from Michael Crichton, Dragon Teeth felt like a classic western in the vein of Louis L’Amour. An engaging read, I recommend the book on its own merits as a well-crafted page turner. My three-star rating is the result of unfulfilled expectations.
Whether it was the liner notes or something I read into the title, I anticipated a sci-fi twist to this posthumous work. And as one of my favorite authors, I expected to find more in the realm of fantastic speculation. Instead I was treated to an historical fiction peppered with familiar icons of the old west.
Credibility is a hallmark of Crichton’s work and that pattern is evident in Dragon Teeth. The tale begins at the hallowed halls of Ivy League academics and the pampered life of William Johnson, a spoiled young student who joins an expedition after losing a bet. Johnson is the fictional protagonist, deftly positioned between two noted paleontologists, Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, historical rivals in early fossil expeditions into Montana and the Dakotas.
Pushing his exploratory venture longer than many consider safe, Edward Cope barely eludes discovery by hostile Sioux. Here, Johnson’s adventure is just beginning as his escape from certain death lands him in Deadwood, South Dakota. When he inflames the wrath of a local gunfighter, he hires a man named Wyatt Earp as a body guard.
For Jurassic Park junkies, you need to know there is nothing here that ties into that popular book and film franchise. Fans of history and westerns will enjoy encountering familiar figures such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Brigham Young, army generals Philip Sheridan and George Custer.