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Bones of the Earth: A Scifi Tale That Tried to be Way Too Much

Updated on January 8, 2021

Spoiler Warning

Hey everyone. Before you start reading the review, I wanted to let you all know if you know that this review includes some spoilers. There is a point in the book, where a decision so jaw dropping dumb that its has to be mentioned. For a book trying so hard to be smart, its shocking. So it would be a crime to not bring up.

Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick

I am always on the great hunt for a science fiction writer who is as good as Michael Crichton. I found some who are close but more fantastical than Crichton’s grounded scifi style. But then I stumbled across a book called Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick. The synopsis sounded compelling. So read the first couple chapters in a sample and it was great! I was like this the grounded scifi that I have been looking for. Then I bought it. And now I giving you all my review of Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwhick.

So what is it about? It begins in present day with a paleontologist name Leyster working late at the university. A man comes in named Griffin and gives him a job offer. Leyster argues there is nothing that pays better than what he has. Griffin then presents a freshly deceased decapitated triceratops head. He says he is being offered to travel to the past to study real dinosaurs. Immediately Leyster takes the job

The book then begins to tell the story through chopped up time loops. This older character is telling a younger version of himself what to do. Other older versions of characters are traveling back and changing the fates of their younger selves. There are creationists under cover among the paleontologist trying to sabotage things in the name of their religion in the mix. Then there’s the constant effort to prevent paradoxes as others are violating those rules to learn where time travel came from. It really does go everywhere.

The good? Well I have to hand it to this author. Here is a mountain of creativity here. Everything does fit together like very elaborate puzzle. It’s amazing he did what he did with so many moving pieces of what versions of what person is doing what, where, and when. This was not an easy feat. And the story, when it was all done, the ending seemed like a fine fitting to it all. As a whole the book is a well told story in general.

The bad? So when this author thought of the idea of time traveling paleontologists, he clearly decided dinosaurs was not enough. He decided to explore all aspects of time travel. And unfortunately that is where everything fell apart. Instead of telling a simple story, he tried to tell the most complicated, complex, layered, and most comprehensive time travel tale of all time. And that is where this book fell apart. The best science fiction novels that are out there are smart yet straight forward stories. If this was only about the creationist spies trying to kill people in the past to prove humans were here when dinosaurs walked the Earth; that would have been great! If it followed the tragic side story of Leystors assistant who was pulled away from the project by her rich parents that would have been an interesting view point. If it only followed Leyster’s relationship with Sally as his superior says the future version of that woman will betray him, that would have been great as well. Better yet, when the cast have to fend for themselves against dinosaurs, it would have been good as well. But this book spreads itself way too thin. In about 350 pages it covers material that needed a trilogy books, if not more, to explore. Everything becomes rushed. The characters are shallow. It’s hard to tell who is where at what time period sometimes (or if they are in the same time line at all) because it really is so lacking on the detail. Then when story gets going, this happens, then that happens and then this happens again. It’s all over the place paired with boring characters. I found myself really not caring half way through the book. And that is a shame because opening chapter was so detailed and it seemed Leystor would be developed throughout. But now it feels like a broken promise.

Also this book has very little action in it. So it’s not all that exciting.

Then one last bad point It’s a tiny bit of a spoiler but it's something so dumb I have to bring. it up So there is a point where the paleontologists are trapped in the cretaceous for a while. On the first night they give up all hope of being rescued, have an orgy and a month later they wonder why one of them is pregnant. Seeing how they are scientists, as in highly educated people, I felt this was the dumbest plot twist I’ve seen in a very long time. It was painfully dumb actually. But it shows how sloppy the writing gets as the book goes on. As a whole, the story is interesting at its core concept, but there is so much sloppiness in writing, lack of detail, bad characters, and dumb decisions throughout.

Overall, this was a disappointment. By trying to do everything this story became less of a book and more of an interesting experiment. If the author took his time and focused on a single storyline this would have been great. Instead it’s mediocre because he tried to do too much. As a sum of its parts it’s interesting. But it’s not an entertaining journey to go on in the least. It’s just below mediocre. If you want to read this because you just want to see an imaginative yet rough scifi tale, then feel free to check it out. You may enjoy certain elements. But I do not recommend this one.

2 smoothies out of Five

Overall Rating: A Scifi Tale That Tried to be Way Too Much.

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