This was not the book I was expecting. Non-fiction woven with fiction to create an interesting journey into the old west created a story that was equal parts boring and suspenseful. Almost the moment that I got bored due to nonfictiony kinds of things something fictiony happened and I absolutely had to keep reading.
Evolution is still an idea that is controversial (LOL at least that’s changed, right? pfft) and two professors, Marsh and Cope, are rivals in the race to discover the most dinosaur bones in the West. Our fictional main character, William Johnson, is a snotty, spoiled, rich Yale student who plans to go to Europe for the summer until he is dared to travel along with Yale professor Marsh on a bones expedition to a location unknown. Marsh is a crazy, paranoid old coot who suspects Johnson of being a spy for his rival, Cope, and promptly abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is discovered by Cope and travels with him for his digging trip, then has quite the adventure trying to get back to Philadelphia.
The sense of drama is enhanced by the Native American conflicts, the danger faced when traveling through Sioux territory, and the lack of communication abilities (the telephone had only just been invented and most relied on the telegraph, which not all towns in the west had) and the general lawlessness – you’ll be holding your breath the whole way. The most satisfying bit is the change in William. I love a spoiled brat getting his, it was very enjoyable.
I will say that I prefer Crichton’s full fictional work to this. There are peaks and valleys in this book and early on I truly was ready to put the book down completely and not finish it because I was so bored. Know that perseverance pays off with this one. Stick with it and you won’t be disappointed.