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Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards

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1 Review

Paperback: 176 pages / Publisher: G.T. Labs / Published: 1 Oct 2005

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      07.11.2012 19:24
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      A cross between history, paleontology, historical fiction and comic books.

      At age 7, my son is still fascinated by dinosaurs, especially rocks and bones. As he also loves graphic novels, this seemed like a great idea. The idea of taking the Bone Wars between March and Cope and turning them into a graphic novel is absolutely brilliant. Children can learn about science and history and have fun at all the same time.

      The execution however, was less than brilliant. The art work is black and white, and lacks complex shading as there is only one shade of grey used, but it is good - no complaints in that department. The pages are well laid out and easy to follow. I had the impression while reading this, that the writer had less background in these characters than my son had though. He felt the need to write in a fictional sub plot which really made things confusing and both my son and I struggled to keep track of what was going on. The story would have been far better if he had left his fictional story of switching bones out and instead included some of incidents that were actually reported at the time, such as sabotage and the use of dynamite to destroy fossils rather than let the other get their hands on them. I felt so many interesting parts of the story were left out, and I found the fictional twists and turns impossible to keep track of. Even the eventual social, financial and academic ruin suffered by both men as the result of their feud is difficult to understand going solely by this book. My son also often had to ask which paleontologist was which, and even I had trouble keeping up. Much of this difficulty was due to the attempts to put in fictional twists and turns, but it made for a difficult and strained read.

      On the plus side - this did give some insight into American history at the time. Buffalo carcasses are shown rotting alongside the train tracks - although mention of the fact that white travellers shot them for sport is not made. O.C. Marsh is shown attempting to provide some relief to the beleaguered Sioux, but only out of personal interests - he is clearly the villain in this book, although from what i have read, both men were very much alike. Sadly though,, the author did make the Sioux chief a bit of an idiot, something I could have done without. The whole affair with chief Red Cloud certainly puts O.C. Marsh in a different light though, and despite the authors assertions that he helped only for his own gain, there is every reason to believe Marsh genuinely cared about what he saw. He went to the president himself trying to get better treatment for Sioux, and when that failed he went to the papers actively campaigning until he managed to get enough public sympathy to force reforms through. As other section of this book were fictionalised - I wasn't sure how much of the Red Cloud / O.C. Marsh story was true so I had to research this online.

      In short - you will need a good background in the fossil wars between these rival paleontologists to understand what is going on this book. Even then you may to use other sources to know what to believe. But if you already know the story so well - do you really need the book? Nice pictures but not much in the way of content. I could still recommend this simply because it is so unique. It is something different on a paleontology oriented bookshelf especially for a child with a combined love of paleontology and graphic novels - but it will not be for everyone. Despite his confusion with who was who and what was going on at times, my son enjoyed reading this once, but he hasn't touched in since. I will probably keep this just because it a unique item, but it is not accurate enough to count as non fiction and not at all interesting enough for a good piece of fiction.

      I have given this 3 stars, which I feel is very generous. I do very much like the idea, the cover is lovely and it is something really unique. I do feel the reader could gain some knowledge of history from this, and it does serve some educational purpose - even if you do have to verify everything with another source.

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