For big-game hunters, traveling back in time to the Cretaceous period would be truly exciting. Just think about the trophies they’d bring back—triceratops, plesiosaurs, spinosaurus, velociraptors, pterosaurs. I’d love to read a travelogue written by Ernest Hemingway about his adventures 60 million years ago.
The end of the Mesozoic age provides a great opportunity for huntsmen like Teddy Roosevelt, Donald Trump Jr. and Elmer Fudd. For the price of $50,000 U.S. dollars (cheap!), they are given the privilege of spending two weeks in a prehistoric sporting arena.
It’s a pretty sweet setup: A time-traveling safari full of rich gamers, ambitious paleontologists and boorish politicians. Author David Drake fills his mosaic novel with a handful of colorful characters, and his dino action is appropriately earthshaking. It’s also heartbreaking in many ways. The safari slaughter at the end of the book, for example, is gross and goes waaaay beyond collateral damage.
In the first story, clients of the Time Intrusion Project stumble upon an early version of man. What do they do? Kill him as a trophy, capture him as a living specimen or introduce stimulus into the environment that accelerates the evolutionary timeline? To add another wrinkle to the situation, an ambitious paleontologist wants to exploit Homo habilis to boost her professional career. For a scientist who studies fossils for a living, she’s awfully shortsighted. She gets zero sympathy points from me.
But I want to get back to the dinosaurs. Time Safari is heavy with frightfully giant reptiles (Dinosauria, as they say), and the narrative surges through the roof when papa Tyrannosaurus rex shows up. Despite their size and bulk, no other herbivorous or carnivorous creature can compete with the 80-ton king of dinosaurs.
This becomes a big problem in the book’s final story when a big-game hunter announces his intentions immediately. “Screw everything else,” says Luther Cardway. “I want to return Topside with a T-Rex.”
Cardway is a guy with a tremendous amount of privilege. As the current U.S. Secretary of State, he’s basically immune to any time travel accountability. Plus: “He’s from Texas,” says the expedition’s organizer with a shrug. “He thinks he can do anything he likes.”
Cardway puts the safari personnel in a tight spot. No titanosaurus carcass will sate his unreasonable demands—no troglodyte, no sarcosuchus, no giant dragonfly, no nuthin’. He has to have a Tyrannosaurus. And to get one, he’s willing to gun down every creature (big and small) that stands in his way.
The irony in all this is that Cardway’s selfish behavior inadvertently signals the end of the dinosaurs. And here’s the kicker: had things gone in a slightly different direction, Cardway would have ended human civilization too. Believe me, the two-fisted twist ending is a corker.
[Time Safari / By David Drake / First Printing: September 1982 / ISBN: 9780523485416]