Books

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

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.

Dragon TeethMichael 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’.

Side note: I’d like to acknowledge how much Marsh and Cope’s antagonistic relationship mirrored the relationship between the Jurassic Park character John Hammond and Dr. Lewis Dodgson. Also, Michael Crichton, as mentioned in the Author’s Note, took some liberties in bending the facts about historic events. Just keep it in mind that you’re not reading a true account of the Bone Wars. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t as nutty as he made it seem.
Personal

More Time…

I spend a lot of time walking through bookstores. Well, just one bookstore. When Hastings closed several years ago, Barnes & Noble has been my one source for instant book gratification. Well, that and my Kindle. Most times I buy something. Sometimes it’s just therapeutic. Tonight I picked up J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien even though I haven’t finished reading The Girl with All the Gifts nor have I started Michael Crichton’s Dragon Teeth. Lingering in my head as I made way down the aisles, scanning spines for titles that were familiar and new, was Shaun’s counseling session.

A few months ago, Jeanna and I agreed we’ve give child counseling a try. After all, we couldn’t explain Shaun’s sudden change in mood. Sure, part of it could be school. But his silent treatment and whispered conversation began to spread across non-school days. He no longer wanted to go to the movies because he feared the loud noises. He hated going to stores that weren’t Barnes & Noble for the same reason. We couldn’t figure out what exactly was going on with our child, so we looked for assistance. And today Shaun just wanted me to go into the room with him, while Jeanna waited in the lobby. A decision that I didn’t anticipate.

I won’t go over the details of the conversation, just the part that stuck in my head.

“Have you ever been to the beach?” his counselor asks. “Yes,” Shaun replies. “When was the last time you’ve been to the beach?” “A long time ago. But not too long ago.” “And who did you go with?” “Mommy and Marcos.” “Is Marcos another little boy?” “No.” “Who’s Marcos, Shaun?” she asks. He hesitates to answer, so she continues, “Is he Mommy’s friend?” She gives me a look, a pained smile across her face because maybe she’s uncertain if I knew about this possible interloper. “Yes.” “Is Marcos nice to Mommy?” she asks, and I understand that this is protocol. She’s not insinuating that the man who’s been planning secondary parent is abusive, but my intestines still clench with anxiety. “Yes,” he answers.

There was a time I saw Marcos as my competition, my adversary. It’s the first time I felt the bite of jealousy in my thoughts. This was before coming to terms that I was no longer in the running.

There are still times when I’m William Borgens “staring through the window into my ex-wife’s new life” and how seeing them together is “like turning on a familiar sitcom, and realizing they had replaced one of the lead actors with a stranger.” How the show remained the same but the actor who played Guillermo for nearly ten years was gone.

I close my eyes for a bit. The last night catching up with me this morning. I’m not a drinker, mind you; I’m just not as young as I once felt. The counselor pries a bit, but Shaun, like his father, holds back on discussing his feelings. Maybe when he learns to put his thoughts on the page, he’ll find a way through them. Until now, counseling sessions with this woman. After the session, she asks Shaun if he’s ready to visit her without one of us in the room. He wasn’t. Not just yet, anyway.

After eating and giving Jeanna the quick rundown on what was said about Marcos, I came into my room and just crashed onto my bed while Shaun played with his cousins. I placed my phone on the charger and started texting a girl. Someone who’s been on my mind a lot lately. Someone I’ll go out of my way to talk to, even when there’s nothing to discuss. Someone who’s like a better version of me.

Someone who’s found away to make me smile.

Me: So Shaun decided to give me the honor of going with him to the counselor’s room without Jeanna. It got awkward when Jeanna’s boyfriend was brought up.

Her: So, interesting day?

Me: Very. Because he doesn’t seem to understand what he is to her.

Her: Oh boy… Definitely awkward.

Me: And because I don’t interact with either of them (meaning counselor and Shaun) during the session, I just sat there dissecting everything in my head. The counselor just gave me this semi-pained smile.

Her: So, no reading?

Me: No reading. Just good old raw awkwardness.

Her: But no zombie apocalypse. I know it’s not much, but it’s kinda a bright side.

Me: It means a lot that you can put a positive spin on this.

Her: I try.

I’ve been transparent about my feelings without so much as voicing them. I’m uncertain about them just as much as scared of them. And while she’s met Shaun, he knows she’s just a friend. Not the same type of friend as Marcos is to Jeanna, but a friend. And I couldn’t ask for a better one during this second wave of uncertainty and existential crisis that a malevolent programmer might have set up in me.