A Tyrannosaurus With a Bad Case of Freezer Burn

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If late night B-movies have taught me anything, it is that radiation makes things grow very big really, really fast. This is not true, of course, but it is a standard convention of cheesy science fiction, and it is a theme carried on by Leigh Clark's novel Carnivore.

The story unfolds at a remote Antarctic research station where a team of scientists has brought back a Tyrannosaurus egg they found frozen in ice. At one point someone says "Gosh, we shouldn't put any of that radioactive waste we have lying around next to that egg or it will grow very fast!" But of course this is just what the human villains of the story do. Before you know it the little Tyrannosaurus is a full-grown terror, gorging itself on the hordes of nameless characters that seem to appear out of nowhere at the outpost.

I would mention the main characters of the novel, but there is not much point. Almost everyone falls prey to the Tyrannosaurus in gruesome fashion. Indeed, Clark's antagonist is a very messy eater, and it is no wonder that it eats so many people since it can't seem to keep those it captures in its mouth for very long. If done right the descriptions of blood and gore could have been chilling, but instead the novel jumps from one scene of over-the-top carnage to the next.

Carnivore mostly serves as an excuse to have a Tyrannosaurus munching on scores of hapless victims in the Antarctic, but a more effective thriller is Lincoln Child's new novel Terminal Freeze. In some ways it is quite similar to Clark's book (a team of scientists finds a prehistoric killer locked in ice), but Terminal Freeze is more fully developed. The Arctic base where Child's novel is set is described in vivid detail, making it easy to imagine his monster slinking down the dark, chilled hallways. As it turns out, Child's creature is not a dinosaur but an unknown kind of mammal, but it is just as terrifying as Clark's more famous antagonist.

While the idea that dinosaurs (or other monsters) might be preserved alive in ice for millions of years is a bit silly, we do know that dinosaurs inhabited cold habitats within the Arctic Circle. The past year has seen the publication of several papers describing the diversity of dinosaurs in the cold northern reaches of the globe. While novelists still have to figure out how to close gaps of tens of millions of years to bring dinosaurs and humans together, a tyrannosaur trotting through the snow is not such a far-flung idea after all.

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