West of Eden (West of Eden, #1)by Published 01 Jun 2004
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Sixty-five million years ago, a disastrous cataclysm eliminated three quarters of all life on Earth. Overnight, the ago of dinosaurs ended. The age of dinosaurs ended. The age of mammals had begun.
But what if history had happened differently? What if the reptiles had survived to evolve intelligent life?
In West of Eden, bestselling author Harry Harrison has created a rich, dramatic saga of a world where the descendents of the dinosaurs struggled with a clan of humans in a battle for survival.
Here is the story of Kerrick, a young hunter who grows to manhood among the dinosaurs, escaping at last to rejoin his own kind. His knowledge of their strange customs makes him the humans' leader...and the dinosaurs' greatest enemy.
Rivalling Frank Herbert's Dune in the majesty of its scope and conception, West of Eden is a monumental epic of love and savagery, bravery and hope.
West of Eden (West of Eden, #1) Reviews
If you've been searching for ages for a book where someone has sex with a dinosaur, then look no further. You've found it.
West of Eden takes place on an alternate Earth timeline where the K-T meteor event never took place and thus never wiped out the dinosaurs, paving the way for a race of mosasaurs (marine lizards) to evolve into a sentient species with some pretty cool biotechnology at about the same time humans reach the cusp of their neolithic revolution. However, the Yilanè and humans are extremely hostile to one another and unrelentingly seek to annihilate each other. The main character is a boy who is captured and raised by the Yilanè after his entire tribe is slaughtered. The degree of detail given to the social, linguistic, and technological aspects of the reptile race is very thorough and vivid. My father is a mosasaur paleontologist, so this book has been floating around Vert Paleo circles since the mid-eighties. I regret that i took so long to finally read it. For any sci-fi fans looking for a refreshing twist to the genre (i guess this could technically overlap into the Clan of the Cave Bear style genre as well) by going back in time i HIGHLY recommend this book. Be warned however, it is part of a trilogy, although i can say the plot of the first book resolves adequately enough that you probably won't feel obligated to dive into the next two, unless of course you just fall in love with it!
This series is one of the best, if not THE best, series I've ever read. Am currently rereading it after 20 years!
"Chalufuf had to spend extra time toiling at the Fufulofar, since his gedezah Nerahdu was in the Yulah talking with the Bedzoh of Henani. The Bedzoh was a kindly Gehufahrt, but many of Nerahdu's volehzahs were now spent in fefulon with the Bedzoh in his efforts to acquire additional Gubahs for his igulafaks."
If the sentence above makes any sense, you might be ready for "West of Eden," a book in which Harry Harrison calls every single rabbit a smeerp. Just to double your pleasure, he throws in not one alien glossary, but two - one for each side of the conflict.
Once you've more or less resigned yourself to a bumpy ride, he introduces the Yilanè, a race so proud, arrogant, and cruel that the first half of the book provides few redeeming features - and the handful of deviant (read: compassionate) elements are rendered nearly inconsequential. Had the species been more diverse, one could hope for some kind of detente, but the Yilanè are so unsympathetic that we just want to watch the world burn.
There are contradictions within the Yilanè as well - a species with such an advanced technological civilization that they can breed living cameras, but most of them have never heard of fire. Apparently none of their cities have ever been struck by lightning. Nor have they ever heard of humans - the North American continent is entirely a mystery to them. They just plant a flag and start to build a city without considering that the local wildlife might be hostile.
I'm not saying it's a bad book and you shouldn't read it, but it's predicated on some heavy conditions. Everything I like to see in a book is there - a rebellious faction in an autocratic society, a perspective on social ossification as a weakness when chaotic elements are introduced, a meditation on the morality of total war - but so downplayed that the causal reader has to dig for them. Victory for the protagonist depends entirely on a weakness that, to say the least, seems narratively unlikely. There's a needle in this haystack somewhere, but whether finding it is worth the search is up to you.
Look, I'm not going to pretend that this series is going to change your life or that it's a great contribution to the literary canon. The prose is serviceable and...that's about it. But that's okay, because this is plot- and scenario-based writing, and I think it works.
The premise is pretty simple: what if dinosaurs had never gone extinct, but instead continued to evolve, with one particular species, the Yilane becoming as intelligent as the humans living just north of them? Now imagine that the coming Ice Age is freezing the reptiles out and forcing the humans and Yilane to battle over habitable land. And there you have it.
Harrison enlisted anthropologists and other experts to help him build the world of the Yilane, and this is where the book really shines. Their language, thinking, and way of interacting with the world is all consistent and completely different than the human experience. It all works to liven up and ground what could have been another one-note science fiction work.
If you like what-if science fiction, and are willing to dig into something a little pulpy with a premise that's embarrassing to describe out loud, then this will probably be enjoyable for you. If you only enjoy Serious Literature with Heavy Morals, you might find it a little silly. But you probably also have little imagination.