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Book Reviews by Edogawa Ranpo

Raptor Red
Robert T. Bakker
Bantam Books, 1996
272 pages

Robert T. Bakker, born in 1945, is an American paleontologist, famous for his cowboy hat and long, bushy beard, and for his book The Dinosaur Heresies (1986) in which he postulates that the dinosaurs were not stupid, slow-moving, cold-blooded lizard-like creatures, but rather quick-witted, fast, and warm-blooded.

Bakker studied at Yale under John Ostrom, who also believed that dinosaurs were warm-blooded.

Bakker was a consultant for the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, adapted from the novel by Michael Crichton and directed by Steven Spielberg. It was during the filming of this movie that the bones of the very large raptor "Utahraptor" were found - and while the raptors in the movie were called "Velociraptors," by their size they were actually closer to the Utahraptor.

Bakker's first fiction book, Raptor Red, is a story of the year in the life of a female Utahraptor.

A pair of fierce but beautiful eyes look out from the dull green undergrowth of conifers and ferns that bound the edges of mud flats and riverbeds. The eyes follow every movement among the great herd of plant-eating dinosaurs that mill around in the open meadows, feeding high in the trees, and sniffing the air for danger. The eyes belong to a young adult Utahraptor, a female who has not yet reproduced.

The female Utahraptor moves her twenty-foot-long body quietly through the ferns, walking in long, slow strides on her muscular hindlegs. She stops every few steps, rotates her elongate head, surveys the plant-eaters. Her eyes move back and forth, executing the rapid scanning of a hunter who is thinking about everything she sees. She is an intelligent killer. She watches the patterns made by the huge herbivorous dinosaurs. She evaluates each individual as a potential victim.

In his introduction, Bakker emphasizes that when his readers think of the courtship behavior of Utahraptors or how they raised their young, you are not to think of lizards but rather of birds. And as for how they attack...think wolves.

The evidence for how dinosaurs behave is in their fossilized footprints, and the deductions that Bakker uses in ths book are made from that evidence.

The narrative begins with Raptor Red out hunting with her mate. With his aid she takes down and kills an Acrocanthosaurus, or Acro. But then her mate is accidentally killed, and so Raptor Red embarks on a journey to reunite with her family - her sister and her sister's two chicks, all the while seeking a new mate for herself.

While this is a good read for teens and adults, it is in no way a children's book. Although Bakker can't help but anthropomorphize the characters a little bit, so that the reader can invest a little bit of emotion into the story, the raptors and their prey throughout the novel are portrayed as realistically as possible.

The reader does come to care for Raptor Red, and wants her to survive through the many obstacles in her path, from injuries to escape from other predators to the finding of a new mate.

For an adventure story as well as an insight into what life may have been like 120 million years ago, read and enjoy Raptor Red.

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