For the past few months, we’ve been reading six more semi-finalists from the inaugural SPSFC. Today we’ve got the third full review of these six, which is of Geoff Jones’ The Dinosaur Four. This book has an SPSFC rating of 5.50 out of 10.
There are science fiction books that use their speculative elements to encourage questions and lines of thought that you just don’t get in other forms of literature. And then there are science fiction books that use speculative elements to tell an exciting and entertaining story that is likewise impossible without the trappings of the genre. Despite what some elitists would have you believe, one is not better than the other. Pure escapism is just as valid a form of literature as intellectual stimulation. It just depends on what any the reader in question is looking for at any given time. I myself read both styles. A lot of the space opera I enjoy favours entertainment over philosophy, and I love them for it. Then there are times when I want to dive into something more complex. Something that interrogates ideas, and has a rich theme running through it. But even when I’m just after some light entertainment, there has to be some kind of substance to it for me to rate it highly. Not a full meal of ethics and morality, but at least a morsel. If a book doesn’t make me think, I might not hate it, but I’m definitely not going to love it.
The Dinosaur Four is the sort of book that is best read with your brain turned off. It’s loud and brash, and occasionally a little crude. But it’s also a lot of fun. A bit like a Will Ferrell film. So long as you don’t think too hard about any of what is happening, you’ll have a blast. Yes, there’s a time travel narrative, but that’s largely an excuse to have people menaced by dinosaurs for a few hundred pages. This book reads like Jurassic Park as made by the SyFy channel. Your tolerance for films like Sharknado will be a pretty good indicator of whether or not this book is for you. It’s cheap, cheerful, and more than a little bit bloody.
One element that did stand out for me is that there is a sizable cast of characters, but all of them are pretty awful people. I’m not a reader who cares about characters, and I certainly don’t need to identify with them to enjoy a book. If you are that sort of reader, you might well find yourself rooting for the dinosaurs by the end of it. There’s something rather cathartic about the idea of idiots meeting a grisly end at the hands (well, the teeth) of an angry dinosaur.
The Dinosaur Four does prove one thing about self-published books. There are stories to be found here that would never see the light of day at a traditional publisher. I myself am quite content with the books put out by the big publishing houses, but if you want to read books that take risks, and are genuinely unique, self-publishing is definitely worth a look. Because if The Dinosaur Four can exist, so can just about anything. And that is wonderful.