Dinotopia, it’s not

I’d like to do a little compare-and-contrast between the Dinotopia books and my Dinosaur Wars stories.

Dinotopian CeratopsianDinotopia, as you may know, is the brainchild of James Gurney, a fine storyteller and superlative illustrator. James’ stories have appeared in more than a dozen books and in a made-for-TV movie, so he’s a bit ahead of me. But he deserves his renown because Dinotopia is a compelling place, and a delightful concept, too: dinosaurs, still surviving in our present world, having escaped extinction 65 million years ago and now cohabiting with humans on a lost, legendary, South Pacific Island. That sort of concept isn’t new. It reads like King Kong or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s South American Lost World. But Gurney’s take is charming: these dinos don’t want to gore you with sharp horns or chomp you down in one bite — they want to have a chat!

In contrast, the dinosaurs of my Dinosaur Wars stories not only will gladly gore you or stomp you or crunch you like granola, but there are some among them with the ways and means to blast you with laser weapons first and eat you later. In a world where we are constantly reminded of the human capacity for conflict, you’ve gotta wonder which of these two takes on the big beasts of the past is the most realistic.

Now, I’m not knocking Dinotopia one iota. It’s a fabulous place filled with wondrous creatures and marvelous happenings sprung from a highly gifted mind. But it’s also reasonable to ask if there’s another way of looking at these remarkable creatures that offers a refreshing new take on an old subject. F’rinstance:

One look at a Dinotopia book impresses you that dinosaurs sure dress up well. They’ve got gold ornaments and jewelry and lovely tapestried saddle blankets, and people to hug and love them until you want to burst with joy that they weren’t all obliterated by that asteroid 65 million years ago. On the other hand, the Kra, the human-sized, intelligent dinosaurs of Dinosaur Wars, indulge a little adornment too, only in this case it’s laser-deflecting battle armor like we saw in Star Wars, fancy feathered ceremonial headdresses that are, unfortunately, not designed to amuse the crowds at parades as in Dinotopia, but to grace the blood-soaked altar of sacrifice in the Temple of Death. That’s a contrast.

Another one I’ve got to hand it to James Gurney for, is the notion that dinosaurs have developed a language, an alphabet, a system of government, and a set of rules and regulations that determine how dinos live their lives. I guess you could say I didn’t go so far. Yes, my Kra gab on and on sometimes in their language, Kranaga, and they of course have an alphabet as well, and on top of that a number system based on sixes rather than tens, to match their total of six horrifically clawed digits. But this numbering system outdoes that of Dinotopia by its demonstrated ability to do rocket science. How else could the Kra have escaped extinction 65 million years ago by hiding out on the moon? So then, despite in all the commonality, some sinister differences lurk. While the Dinotopian dinosaurs want to make friends and be nicey nice, my Kra are unfortunately as much interested in conquest as are we, their human opponents. And they’re quite capable of making the threat a reality, which tends to generate a little excitement from time to time.

Dinotopian CityAnother similarity is that Dinotopia has a mind-bogglingly beautiful civilization, with grand stone buildings, high pavilions, towers, turrets, colonnaded public forums, and architecture beyond comprehension, while Dinosaur Wars’ Kra have: a mind-bogglingly beautiful civilization, with grand stone buildings, high pavilions, towers, turrets, colonnaded public forums, and architecture beyond comprehension, all buried under a mountain of sandstone in Montana. Never fear, the Kra are quickly excavating their city, Arran Kra, which was buried under tidal-wave-washed sand on the day of impact and thereby frozen in time for 65 million years. So, give the Kra a little more time and we’ll really be able to compare and contrast civilizations. Won’t that be fun?

Lastly, James Gurney and his utopian dinosaurs are known throughout the world and have a zillion fans. My Dinosaur Wars stories and I are not so famous. But I’m working hard on this last bit and I could use your help. So, give me a hand by telling a friend about Dinosaur Wars.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes medical thrillers, natural disaster novels, and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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8 Responses to Dinotopia, it’s not

  1. j. m. newell says:

    Approximately Re-animated

    The linch-pin to this fable is not arrested light.

    It is the automated flow of information regenerating long extinquised animal-artifice-technology from inanimate stock piled debris: AI imitating Life.

    Behind the eyes of the author’s pseudo-paleo-archetypes a certain temporal spark is missing, normally recognizable as humor and a demeanor genuinely affecting.

    If Albert and Norbert had been added to the scientific personalities, they might have conferred to note this lack before the die was cast.

    Like second guessing intuitions, blunders are forgivable. The further back into time we look, this Universe is expanding faster and faster yet. It is a chilling, disheartening circumstance.

    While biology’s heretical teleology(circuitous signaling and circular causality may one day enliven our understanding, the better to embrace existance rather then to rue the dance) is just below the surface.

    For this reason alone, when EARTHFALL ended, I missed Sir Lancelot and Jenny with her distaff way of mending.

    Here is my recollection. I hope you consider it a positive review. It is meant to be.

    • Tom Hopp says:

      Janice, you have an intriguing way with words. I’m glad you liked Earthfall. Permit me to answer one point obscurely: I think the Big Bang is a dinosaur of our times. Hence, my cosmic outlook is warmer and friendlier than 2.3 degrees K. Also, I’m touched by your Guiniverean read of Kit. She gains depth as I write her more. And you’re spot on that Chase is Lancelot, although the king is missing.

  2. Inferdramon says:

    I don’t quite remember how I found out about Dinosaur Wars. I think I was on another blog site or something similar where this guy was reviewing a lot of dinosaur-related stories. Dinosaur Wars had been on that page. I forgotten about it for a while after that, somehow remembered the name, and looked it up on Amazon. I purchased the first book one year and the next year bought the second book.

    I did enjoy both of the books, one of the reasons being I’m interested in dinosaurs. Another reason I liked them was that it went against conventional thinking involving brain size=intelligence, an idea I liked and recently found out may be true, like how bees can count and automatically calculate the fastest routes to desired flowers despite having a really tiny brain.

    I have done fanart of Dinosaur Wars and so far I seem to be the only one who has done so. I haven’t yet seen another Dinosaur Wars fanart image. I’ve also talked to a friend of mine about Dinosaur Wars. He’s also really into dinosaurs and he hadn’t heard of Dinosaur Wars until I mentioned it to him. He read both books and thanked me for telling him about them. He says Dinosaur Wars is one of his favorite book series now.

    • Tom Hopp says:

      Inferdramon, thanks for your interest in Dinosaur Wars. I’d love to see that fan art. Is it posted anywhere? You are right about my take on the dinosaurian potential for intelligence — I don’t think their brains were too small at all! If we only use 10% of our brain capacity most of the time, as neurobiologists say, then what if a dinosaur developed the ability to use 50% of its brain capacity? If that brain was half the size of ours, we’d be matched in brainpower. Thanks for passing Dinosaur Wars along to your friend. That’s the way things grow on the web. I’ll be publishing several new stories in my Dinosaur Tales series of short stories, so keep an eye out.

  3. An essay Darren Naish has written that attempts to combine Dougal Dixons book The . They discover that Charon is a hollow sphere and was built by aliens as a nature preserve to save Earths dinosaurs.. The main job is to watch over huge machines that transform the North Poles electromagnetic energy into heat and light.

  4. John says:

    I can’t quite remember when I first discovered the series of Dinosaur Wars, I think I happened to stumble unto it when I was researching a few things: one being the new drama series called Terra Nova, and also the raging discussion (since 2007) of whether or not Jurassic Park 4 will be developed (after reading the original script… was horrible) after 2012. So I’ve been following it for the past 4 years now. That’s a long time.

    I had happened to discover the book series, only the first, with a fan art with a T-rex with a laser head or something. It has been a long time, and it kind of looked corny. I was more interested in books that developed the dinosaurs, their habits, personalities, the way they lived and interacted with one another while keeping the humans somehow in the mix so I forgot the book and shoved it aside.

    It wasn’t until I got real bored and found myself remembering the odd series. I do like Sci-Fi so I figured I would give it a shot…

    Wasn’t disappointed.

    I have yet to read the second book (only the preview) and when I am able to scrounge up a few bucks I will be buying the second book to add to my collection of dinosaurs.

    The book is wonderfully detailed and simplistic to read. It explores each character, and the sides of the raging war, it’s very intriguing and fascinating. Makes the book very believable, and it’s a very thought provoking book. Not only that, it also goes into much detail– what I believe to be one of the most important parts for those who explore dinosaurs in their novels– the behaviors and temperaments of the animals (dinosaurs) that are presented into the book. Characters are very well thought out, a few grammar mistakes which are easily forgiven, and many of them are very likable (with a good balance between strengths and weaknesses).

    I really enjoyed this book. It has been a long time since I’ve read anything that has captivated my imagination and attention to read it all the way through in one sitting– I just couldn’t put it down!

    I look forward to see if the author will develop the series further.

    Recommended this book to many websites, blogs, libraries and friends (I have a good pull when it comes to these things) and they too have enjoyed the books immensely.

    • Tom Hopp says:

      Thanks John. I’m glad you enjoyed Dinosaur Wars and I hope you’ll enjoy Counterattack as well. I expect to have the third book in the series out late this year or early next. You are absolutely right that the characters’ personalities are important, humans and dinosaurs alike! And, by the way, thanks for your efforts to pass Dinosaur Wars along to others. There’s nothing an author appreciates more than an endorsement by a reader.

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