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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2006
Dinosaurs are fantastical creatures that once existed. How cool is that?! Stories about dinosaurs are cool too, if told well. End Of An Era is a fun, quick read about scientists travelling to the Mesozoic, hoping to figure out why dinosaurs became extinct, when they discover that aliens had something to do with it. The story has elements of Robert Heinlein's classic The Puppet Masters, along with interesting facts about dinosaurs, and a compelling story.
All of Sawyer's books are interesting to read, and I've read most of them. My main complaint is his writing style: it's simple; he seems to intentionally write with little imagery or style, using colloquialisms and cultural references too much. Yet, his ideas are fascinating, and he knows how to get his point across. I've read most of his books more than once; they are fun to read.
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on November 23, 2003
This book has an intriguing idea for an alternate history of the earth. And, true to Sawyer's roots, it takes place in Canada and mentions real Canadian locations and institutions, such as the Royal Tyrrell Museum of dinosaurs in the badlands of Drumheller, Alberta. Two scientists go back 65 million years to the extinction of the dinosaurs, to try to verify the cause. The expedition is launched from the Royal Tyrrell Museum Field Station at Dinosaur Provincial Park in an under-equipped time capsule. What they find is much more than just dinosaurs. They find an alien life-form from Mars using the dinosaurs as vehicles. The two scientists disagree on whether to bring the aliens forward in time to save them from the drying-out of Mars.
There's another twist to the tale: this is about alternate histories, after all...
As usual, Sawyer's prose is no more than workmanlike, but he keeps us intriqued with a flow of new ideas, cutting between his alternate histories, and enough personal conflict and feeling to get us involved with his main character.
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on February 27, 2003
End of an Era is rollicking fun science fiction with many twists. Plots and ideas come naturally to Sawyer but the seams pop when he attempts modern characterization. Give him credit for trying, though.
While I love his page-a-minute ideas, his explanations of mundane events strain credibility. For example, why was the time travel venture so low budget they needed to buy second-hand goods (p. 53)? His explanation of a world recession (p. 95) is ridiculous - Sawyer has never been good at economics but this just made me laugh. Meanwhile, Sawyer would have us think a time travel venture needs good PR (p. 53). Also, why were 2 rivals (only 2 for this mission?) sent back in time? The explanation on p. 148 was hardly satisfying (i.e. mission control spent a lot of time debating it). Finally, why doesn't Thackeray identify himself as a doctor to a fellow scientist (p. 78)? The scientist refuses to listen to him until Thackeray mentions he's a doctor on p. 132. The reason for the delay, of course, is to have the resolution of this plot line occur later in the novel.
Despite these minor quibbles, the novel's far-fetched ideas had me smiling throughout the book. The writing is crisp and the twists hooked me until the end. Sawyer's knowledge of paleontology and physics kept the science fiction elements believable. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking fun science fiction. Like many of the reviewers, I also enjoyed other Sawyer books such as Terminal Experiment and Starplex.
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HALL OF FAMEon February 28, 2002
Robert Sawyer restores the "science" in "S-F" as no other writer can. As he transports two men 65 million years into the past, he offers us a sampling of everything from the anthropic principle through geology to zoology. He's able to reconcile the paradoxes raised by time travel [including a nod to the most famous example, Ray Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder"] and set them aside plausibly. Sawyer also illuminates the contribution of Canada's researchers in nearly all these disciplines with subdued fervour. And scourges politicians for their failure to support science. All this in just over two hundred pages is no small feat.
The theme of End of an Era recounts the probable cause of the dinosaurs' extinction. Sawyer uses the story to review the thinking resulting from the Alvarez proposal that a wandering asteroid so disrupted the environment that all the large sauropods died out, leaving the planet an open niche for mammalian life. If an asteroid didn't kill off the dinosaurs, what did? The most discussed option is an era of massive vulcanism which would have the same effect. But Sawyer, with his gift of imagination, introduces a new option. Again, his concept has a sound scientific base and he describes it at some length. His presentation is impressive and well delivered. And a terrifying surprise.
Along with his scientific foundation, Sawyer paints realistic characters. The protagonist is a paleontologist with the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto [Sawyer's lucky, he lives close to his sources], and one can't help but wonder who the model might be. Brandon Thackeray, in the midst of devastating mid-life crises, is chosen as one of the two time travellers. His team-mate couldn't have been a worse choice for such an assignment - he's taken up with Brandon's ex-wife. Miles Jordan might be forgiven that affair, but will never live down taking packages of Twinkies into the Cretaceous. Sawyer hints that Tory cutbacks have eliminated psychological testing for this unique journey, but still, this is some pair to cram together in a time machine.
Sawyer's thinking challenges any reader unfamiliar with the science he introduces. His brief scenarios of research and theories cover much territory in a restricted space. While welcome and necessary, they don't leave enough room for plot in such a short book. Regrettably, his very skills in offering science force the story line over a bumpy path. There are parallel story lines in this book which take some unravelling. While his characters are realistically portrayed, the book might have been fleshed out a bit. Readers of Sawyer's other work know he's fully capable of expanding his persona. With a shade more depth, this book could have become a classic in speculative ["science"] fiction instead of just a very good read. Even if Sawyer's not at the top of his form here, his innovative thinking
remains captivating to the discerning reader.
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on November 18, 2002
This one really got me thinking. Dinosaurs infected with intelligent viruses? Like Dinotopia meets The Body Snatchers. Time travel. This one's got just about every sci-fi gimmick imaginable. A very intriguing read, but don't expect it to be very believable. Compare another recent dinosaur saga, Dinosuar Wars, and you get a very different take on what happened at the end of the Dinosaur Era. I think I enjoyed Dinosaur Wars better for its believable return of the creatures, and the fact that they weren't occupied, as in End of an Era, by intelligent viruses that controlled their activities. It's safe to say this book is far fetched. But it's fun.
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on July 30, 2002
If you are looking for a entertaining "what if" type author, Robert Saywer is the author to buy. As for this book, I was quite happy with the idea behind it and the way the story was presented. The book is page-turner right from the start. The only problem I had was the length. I wish I could have had more time in the world that Saywer created. It felt like the story was over as soon has it started. It seems like this book could have had 100 more pages and added to the story. However, this is still a great book worth reading.
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on January 23, 2002
Wow. This one stretched my mind quite a bit. Maybe a little too far, but it was a good read nonetheless. I loved the dinosaurs, but had trouble with the time-travel stuff. I prefer dino novels that get you there by some more credible means, such as Crichton's Jurassic Park or Hopp's Dinosaur Wars. I got a kick out of Sawyer's take on the big extinction event, fun if not too likely, though again, Hopp's chilling discussion of the real one - the asteroid impact, is the best I've read to date.
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on November 21, 2001
"End of an Era" is a fast, pleasant read. A bit fuzzy on some logical points, which are quickly glossed over as quantum mechanical weirdness. The story posits the strangest scenario for the K-T mass extinction (short of Gary Larson's "Far Side" suggestion that the dinosaurs died from cigarette smoking). The theme is similar to Sawyer's "Calculating God", a better novel, in my opinion.
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on February 9, 2003
END OF AN ERA is a time travel novel back to the era of dinosaurs. Not only do we find dinosaurs but the galaxy itself is active with sentient beings - including Martians. It's hard to give too much of a plot description without giving away some surprises. Suffice it say, Sawyer gives us a very unique twist on a familiar theme.
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on July 25, 2002
With this one, Sawyer bends the rules a little more. The basis of this novel are less... convincing than what Sawyer usually offers. However, it also is lighter. It is a book which should have presented more hard data about dinosaurs, but then, I would not have recommended it for my kids, which I feel like doing now.
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