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Monday, August 16, 2010


By Mark Ellis
(5/5 stars)

A perennial hot button issue in science and religion is on the origin of life. Were humans created by God--in which case, whose God?--or by evolution or by something else entirely? In "Cryptozoica," Mark Ellis adds fuel to the fire by offering another theory on the origin of man that involves dinosaurs and some very special goo.

Like "The Da Vinci Code," the story also involves secret societies. In this case it's the School of Night, an ultra-secret club of scholars that included Charles Darwin himself. In the book's prologue, we learn that Darwin and the crew of the Beagle ran across the Tamtung islands, which were home to some very weird creatures. They didn't really know what to call them since the word "dinosaur" hadn't been invented yet.

Skip forward to the present. "Tombstone" Jack Kavanaugh is living on Little Tamtung along with his friend Crowe. They, along with an eccentric billionaire, tried to start a sort of Jurassic Park/dinosaur safari on Big Tamtung, but the venture was shut down after three people died. Now the School of Night is getting involved, along with some Asian gangsters who helped bankroll the original venture. This means that Jack, Crowe, and some new and old friends all have to return to Big Tamtung and unlock its secrets.

What secrets are those? You'll just have to read to find out.

"Cryptozoica" is a taut and engaging pulp adventure. If I have one complaint, it's that there wasn't enough of a body count. I wanted the dinos to munch a few more people. Still, this is a fun, exciting read with some great illustrations too that should bring to mind old school adventure stories like "The Lost World" while adding a little modern science and conspiracy theory to the mix to freshen it up.

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