I read my first Michael Crichton book in the sixth grade. A year or two prior, I sat transfixed on the screen as dinosaurs came to life before my eyes. So of course the first book I selected to read by the late author was Jurassic Park. It must’ve taken me a month to finish what I considered quite the tome in my misguided youth. Chapter after chapter, glued to the edge of wonder, looking up definitions of words new to me. I read on until the mass market paperback’s spine broke and pages slipped out from between the covers. Three years later, I tried my hands on a second Michael Crichton book. The choice was obvious: his follow dinosaur book, The Lost World.
Michael Crichton left the world too soon. Lymphoma took him nine years ago at the age of 66. But his legacy continues. In May, HarperCollins released Dragon Teeth, a novel Sherri Crichton describes as the “forerunner to his ‘other dinosaur story.'”
I purchased the book upon release, though I set it aside. Books published posthumously fall into a rut most of the time. Several feel lacking. But not this one. Despite its short chapter length, the 283-page story packs a punch.
The story centers around William Johnson, a Yale student finding himself in the midst of the Bone Wars. (If you haven’t read up on the Bone Wars, I suggest that you do!) Johnson’s story starts off in the company of famed paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh. When Marsh’s suspicion leaves Johnson stranded on the road West, Edward Drinker Cope takes him under his wing. It is then Johnson encounters drunken soldiers, war-raging Native Americans, and the dragon teeth.
While paleontology is the focal point of the tale, Crichton treats his readers to a western tale as well. Johnson finds himself in outlaw town, Deadwood. He rides alongside famed gunfighters Morgan and Wyatt Earp. And Johnson, of course, learns early on that it’s not the destination that matters. It’s the journey to the end.
I felt like sixth grade me again. Reading and rereading passages. Not for definitions, but for the emotion Crichton poured into his craft. It took me eleven days to complete Dragon Teeth, but I didn’t want it to end. And by next year, I hope to read it again.
Until next time, book hunters. Keep on huntin’.