Book Review: Bones of the Earth – by Michael Swanwick

Bones SwanwickBones of the Earth is a science fiction and time travel story, where the time travel is fundamentally central to the plot. Being a time travel story buff, I was surprised that it took me so long to discover this book; it came out 2002.

The protagonist is a paleontologist who gets an offer to travel to the distant past to study dinosaurs in the flesh. Time travel is a gift from non-humans (we only find out later in the book from whom exactly) and is provided to humanity only with certain strings attached, the main one being:  humans are understandably not allowed to create time paradoxes.

Just because it’s not allowed does not mean it does not happen, and as a result, things get complicated very quickly.

Bones of the Earth is a page-turner from the first page on, mostly due to the subject matter. I very much enjoyed reading about researchers being able to study dinosaur behavior first-hand, like in Jurassic Park. I don’t know if Swanwick is a scientist himself, but he seems to know a lot about science in general and paleontology specifically. Either he is an expert himself (which I could not ascertain from the information about him available online) or he has excellent sources and he did great research.

The problem with this book is that I could simply not follow the plot.  Not only does the point of view of the novel shift around, the time shifts, and the causality shifts constantly, due to time travel. So something happening in 2034 is the cause of a result occurring 100 million years in the past or 100 million years in the future. I found myself getting lost quite often, and I simply trusted the writer to keep things straight, even though I could not follow it all the time. I would have to read the book again, and draw a plot diagram just to keep it straight – the writer must have done that himself.

Confusing or not, this book is the most time traveling book of all time traveling books.

Rating:  ** 1/2

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