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Every Hidden Thing: 04/17/18
The David Fickling edition of Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel describes the book as "Romeo and Juliet meets Indiana Jones." And while it's a catchy elevator pitch, readers picked up the book based on that description register the most dissatisfaction with the plot. I happened to pick up the HarperCollins Canada audio version which instead highlights the rivalry between the two fathers with the son and daughter caught in the middle.
The HarperCollins cover art as well so perfectly encapsulates the book. It's one of those illustrations that has two distinct purposes: giving enough of a gist of the plot to lure readers into the book, while simultaneous giving a payoff to those who have read the novel.
The novel is a fictional account of the discovery of the first tyrannosaurs rex skeleton. Of course the t-rex remains a popular species, so it's an obvious choice. But, one has to accept Oppel's alternate fiction which can be difficult with such a well known species. For this story, the discovery is done by a prospector out in the "badlands" near Sioux territory.
The first paleontologist team to get the information are the father and son team of the Bolts. Their part of the story is narrated by seventeen year old Samuel Bolt. It's his father who in this version coins the name "tyrannosaurs rex." In reality, it was coined by Henry Fielding Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History in 1905.
Because the father is lackadaisical with this correspondence, the prospector has already moved onto the next person on his list, Bolt's rival, Dr. Cartland and his daughter Rachel. As he has university backing, he is a force to be reckoned with. He can afford to do things on a bigger, flashier fashion than the Bolt's can.
The clues both teams are given is a tooth — a giant, curved, black one. It's too big to be anything previously found. The second clue is a local legend of the "Black Beauty" — an ebony colored monster that a recently deceased Sioux chief claimed to have met and fought while on his spirit quest as a youth.
This "Black Beauty" dinosaur, being both massive and more darkly colored than many fossils, brings to mind perhaps the best known T-rex skeleton: Sue. Sure, Sue, named for Sue Hendrickson, is fun to include in a novel, but readers who know the real story might be gritting their teeth.
To make the rivalry sand out in high contrast, Dr. Cartland is made out to be as racist and classist as possible. He desecrates a burial site found. Along with the human body parts they take, Rachel finds a fossil, thus making her a junior version of her father.
Mixed into the race to find the t-rex is a relationship of convenience between the two teens. Samuel's idea of love boils down to boobies, good smells, and oh yeah — someone who can talk about paleontology with him. Rachel meanwhile, sees him as a means to and end — a way to escape her father's outmoded Victorian ideals. She wants to go to university and become a paleontologist.
So in the last third there are some god awful romance scenes. They are not a romantic couple. Their sex scenes are painful to read (or listen to). I ended up having to fast forward through the sex because it was so laughably bad.
This book could have been better without the "romance" and time and energy put in to inventing a fictional dinosaur, rather than fictionalizing actual discoveries.
For more on t-rex and it's cousins, please see the article on Live Science.
Comment #1: Monday, April 23, 2018 at 08:10:10
The premise of the book sounded so good when I first saw it at a bookstore last year. I think I'll get it at the library and read it first. My son likes Oppel's books but I'm wary of those sex scenes you mentioned.
Comment #2: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at 11:12:00
My daughter sat through some of the sex scenes as I was listening to it on audio. I don't know where you draw the line — so that is up to you and your son. The scenes can be skipped as they don't serve the plot.