NESFA Members' Reviews

coverBones of the Earth

by Michael Swanwick

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Eos, 2002, $25.95, 335 pp

This is a wonderful book!

In 2010, a number of paleontologists are approached by the Pentagon and offered the chance to explore – in deepest secrecy – the Mesozoic. Somehow the military have gotten access to time travel which seems only to be of use visiting the period ending 65 million years ago when dinosaurs were dominant.

The book, while not especially long, is a wonderful mixture of dinosaurs, paleontologists and their science and rivalries, time travel paradoxes and puzzles, but more than anything, it's an extended love story, a love story about people and their love of paleontology and particularly dinosaurs. Leyster, a paleontologist and the main character is a believable scientist, and Griffin, the head of the project, is terrific as the administrator/secret agent combo required of someone who knows the future.

It's worth noting that while Swanwick plays with time travel paradoxes – they form a central part of the story – he doesn't really resolve them or even pay particularly close attention to them when doing so would interfere with the story. In lesser hands this would be a serious flaw, but somehow it didn't detract from Bones of the Earth at all.

(I especially liked the time-travel bureaucracy keeping detailed notes on what decisions that will be making so that when the time comes to make them, they make the correctly – i.e., like the book says they did. Even when the action is a violation of regulations. If it happened, it must happen.)

This will surely be on my Hugo list for 2002.

Highly recommended!

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