Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Anonymous Rex, Eric Garcia

Anonymous Rex
Eric Garcia

Back in 2006, Malabar reviewed Hot And Sweaty Rex - the third in a series of detective novels based on a world in which dinosaurs live along side humans. The idea sounded so silly that I went to paperbackswap.com to see if I could find them. Sure enough, I did.

The first is called Anonymous Rex and I enjoyed it, despite my previously declared lack of love for detective stories. In it we encounter Vincent Rubio, a detective - and a velociraptor - living and working in LA. He's got an addiction problem, a cash flow problem, a dead-partner problem, and probably a few other problems that I've forgotten to mention. Eventually he gets mixed up in a complex case where the events and sources are scattered over both NYC and LA.

The case itself wasn't the main thing that held my interest here. What worked for me was the humor and the world propped up by the humor. Dinosaurs have actually continued to evolve and still live among us, making up a small but significant percent of the population. They live disguised as humans.

Let me repeat that: these dinosaurs live among us, disguised as humans.

So it doesn't matter if you're a triceratops, a brontosaurus, or a velociraptor, you weigh something like what a human weighs, you're of similar height, and with enough work and the right equipment you can stuff your tail, horns, teeth and hide into a guise that lets you pass for human. You speak the local language, have a job, and generally get by. The "why" behind all that is even explained a bit.

It sounds totally implausible, and in fact it is totally implausible, but after a couple of chapters I stopped objecting. The writing is good enough to let that happen.

The characters are endearing in a way, and obviously humor is a part of this tale, though it's not laugh-out-loud funny in my opinion. Regardless, the humor works, and it kept me engaged.

If I have a gripe it is one that has been common to most of the detective novels I've read. At some point there's a place where some "useful information" (tm) falls into the hands of the detective, and I am all too aware that it's a plot point; it just doesn't feel natural. In this case that happened about three-fourths of the way through the book and it was jarring. There were any number of ways that information could have been introduced much earlier in the story, so that when it became important it wouldn't have clearly been presented just a chapter or two before. But as I say, that's an issue I've hit in one way or another in a lot of the detective novels I've read.

One other issue that comes up is the prevalence of dinos in the world. Vincent tells us they're not that common - perhaps five or ten percent of the population - but he keeps on running into them. After a while I started to wonder if his estimates of their prevalence weren't a bit off, but perhaps not. Certainly they think humans are an inferior species, so ignoring us is second nature to them. Given that, perhaps only the dino/dino interactions are the important ones in their perspective, and thus almost all we read about. But I still don't know how many there really are.

Overall this book was fun. It's a mind-candy kind of work. I enjoyed it, and I'll read the sequels over time, but I probably won't reread Anonymous Rex in the future.