Alan Dean Foster,
Dinotopia Lost
(Turner, 1996; Ace, 2002)

Dinotopia Lost by Alan Dean Foster takes place in the same world that fans of James Gurney, the creator of Dinotopia and author of several books of this land, will recognize. For those of you who are not familiar with this world, Dinotopia is an island situated south, southwest of India and east of Africa. Set in the 19th century, this island is surrounded by great reefs through which many a lost ship has been broken, but none have navigated through successfully. The survivors of these shipwrecks have created a peaceful society with the natives.

The natives of Dinotopia are, as might be guessed from the name of the island, dinosaurs. While dinosaurs became extinct in the rest of the world, on Dinotopia they evolved to become as intelligent, if not more intelligent, than man. While most of the island is "civilized," in the sense that both humans and dinosaurs are vegetarian and live together in peace and harmony, there is an area -- the Rainy Basin -- where certain carnivorous dinosaurs have chosen to live somewhat similar lives to the old ways. One major difference, however, is that hunting has sort of disappeared. Civilized dinosaurs have a pact with those in the Rainy Basin such that they stay out of each other's territory and leave each other alone. When it comes time to die (of old age), the "civilized" dinosaurs head to designated areas within the Rainy Basin. After their passing, the carnivores eat their fill.

Now that you have an understanding about how the world of Dinotopia operates, let me describe a little bit of what is in store for the readers of Dinotopia Lost. Fans will be happy to note that a main character from Gurney's books takes a central part in this tale. Young Will Denison was shipwrecked on the island six years prior to this story, during the last six-year cycle in which large storms pound the northern coast. While he has adapted well to life in this exotic land, new outsiders are about to make his life a little more adventurous.

Notorious pirate Brognar Blackstrap has taken his crew on the Condor around the world in search of action and treasure. While fleeing from Dutch warships, the Condor gets caught in one of the smaller storms during this six-year cycle. With luck, it becomes the first ship to land intact on the island. Not understanding the nature of Dinotopia's residents but recognizing a golden opportunity, Blackstrap and crew set out to capture some rare beasts that will surely make them rich when sold to the highest bidders throughout the world.

Blackstrap and crew first capture a small family of struthies. When one escapes, Will finds himself leading a rescue expedition. In the meantime, the pirates manage to catch a napping baby T-Rex. When the juvenile tyrannosaur's parents figure out that their offspring has been dino-napped, the chase gets interesting! I don't want to give anything away, but if you have enjoyed the action in movies/books such as Jurassic Park, you won't want to miss what Alan Dean Foster has in store for you here.

At 325 pages, this novel is a very quick read. Those of you familiar with Foster's work (which if you have read any fantasy or science fiction at all, surely you have run across his dozens of books) know his writing style tends to flow seamlessly. I would imagine that kids as young as 10 to 12 could easily handle Dinotopia Lost, as it is more digestible than the likes of The Lord of the Rings series which many youngsters are devouring these days. Best of all, you don't even need to be familiar with Dinotopia to pick up this novel. Dinotopia Lost can stand on its own. If you are looking for some light reading and enjoy a good adventure, why don't you have some fun with Will as he saves the day against the evil pirates.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 20 July 2002

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