Tales of love, loss, and regret unfold around a futuristic dinosaur park in this novel.
In 2116, the effects of climate change have drastically altered the planet and advances in technology have led to the development of a remarkable—and extremely popular—theme park. Cretaceous World, located in Dewberry, Oregon, connects visitors with the distant past through genetically engineered dinosaurs living in full-scale reconstructions of their habitats. The sprawling park’s director, Ted Beebe, a microbiologist, and his wife, Becky, a professor of botany, have dedicated their lives to Cretaceous World. At 68, he is satisfied with his marriage and career; however, he finds that he now laments that he and Becky never had children. His blissful life is shattered when she is diagnosed with a virus that causes dementia and later killed by a drunk driver. Bereft, he tries to move on with his life and finds himself attracted to paleontologist Lana Gable. Love is also on the minds of park employees and residents of Dewberry. Sheriff Bob Holmes is concerned that his deputy, Jimmy Watson, is taking his girlfriend for granted. Mystery author Althea Morgan comes to Dewberry seeking information about a murder victim, a Russian tourist, and the relationship that may have led to her death. Ted’s association with Lana leads to new beginnings, but his enduring love for Becky tempers his happiness.
The latest from Robertson (The Bricolage of Kotegaeshi, 2007, etc.) uses the wonders of the dinosaur park as a backdrop to explore the idiosyncrasies of love, grief, and newfound connections. The descriptions of Cretaceous World and its formidable inhabitants are vivid and realistic and Robertson displays a wry sense of humor and a panoply of intriguing characters. Most of the action takes place in the theme park and Robertson draws several thought-provoking parallels between the dinosaurs and their human caretakers, especially in the area of reproduction. The genetic tinkering has rendered the reptiles sterile. As Ted explains: “We can’t handle a population increase in our dinosaurs. When one of them dies, we just make a new one.” Ted and Becky remained childless by choice, preferring to focus instead on their careers and the development of the park. Ted was initially content with their decision; however, after 35 years of marriage, he finds himself wishing he had become a father. The tension between childlessness, by choice or design, and the desire for a family is a central theme connecting several primary and secondary characters in the tale. Robertson’s playful and keen sense of humor is another highlight, particularly the teasing banter between Lana and Ted and a popular local restaurant whimsically named Hominid’s Delight. But the book is relatively short and some promising subplots are limited to a few episodes. Althea’s investigation into the Russian tourist’s death yields a tantalizing murder mystery, but it is dropped as quickly as it is introduced.
An offbeat meditation on relationships, replete with quirky characters and a poignant romance at the center of the action.