Saturday, May 27, 2017

Carnivores (1993) by Penelope Banka Kreps


Okay, I totally thought my next post would be something about King Kong, but here I am, talking about Carnivores instead. That happens sometimes. A lot, actually--thinking I'm going to be writing about one thing and then writing about some other thing, I mean. Don't worry, King Kong will have his day in court. I'm not sure what I mean by that. Oh. Sure I am. I mean the KK post is already in process and on the way, but this one seemed to want to jump in ahead, so I'm letting it.)

Wow. That was terribly, terribly rambl-y and digression-y. But that's the kind of thing that goes on in my head when I don't censor. Then again, if I did a better job censoring (here in these hallowed halls), my posts would all run about three sentences long. And where'd be the fun in that?

Anyway, no King Kong today, but we do have several prehistoric (mostly non-carnivorous) beasts, and they are BACK TO KILL! At least, so says the novel's front cover. Really, they're just back to breed and live out their lives in relative peace as far from human beings as possible. But peaceful living far away from humans does not sell books, does it, and so what we have here in this book is a clear-cut case of "Robin Brown's Megalodon Syndrome."

What's that? You say you've never even heard of that syndrome? Well, you can read about it here.

Yep. This is another one of those what-if-boringly-genuine-and-realistic-people-happened-to-run-across-boringly-genuine-and-realistic-prehistoric-animals stories that, in an attempt to gain more sales, IS MASQUERADING as a blood-and-guts-dinosaur-runs-amock story. Probably marketed as such with little or no input from its author, if my guess is right. So. I think I might've just said all I have to say about the book, right there in those previous two sentences.

Psssh, that's never true. I always find something to say, even if it ends up being only marginally related (and sometimes downright unrelated).

So. The first thing I noticed with this book was what looks to be a garden variety crocodile on the cover. (It's definitely not the prehistoric croc described in-story.) Naturally I figured it was a killer crocodile novel, which genre I'm not generally into, and I almost put it back down. But then a glance at the back cover told me it was not a killer croc on front, but (evidently) some kind of prehistoric killer croc. "Okay," I thought, " the prehistoric angle makes it worth a few hours of my time." And into the book bag it went.

So now, between the book's cover image and back cover blurb, I'm thinking: multiple prehistoric crocodilians running amuck in the everglades, due to some kind of earthquake thingie that lets them all out of the ancient underground cavern they've been living in all these eons. But then I read the inside front cover blurb (neither it or the back cover blurb were written by the author, as was apparent after I started reading the actual novel) and there's a vaguely described elephantine creature with a spiked tail lopping someone's head off. Doesn't sound at all like a crocodile to me, and now I'm confused. But I keep reading, 'cause at the very least, cover art and blurbs have set me up for some kind of prehistoric animal attack bloodbath.

But that isn't what I ended up getting. What I got was more or less a lower grade Jurassic Park (novel, not movie) clone, with fleshed out, reasonably intelligent characters encountering natural and realistically portrayed prehistoric animals. Not a lot of deaths to be had, and those that did occur were along the lines of "got too close to the nest and its protective momma" or "surprised and frightened the usually peaceful herbivore, which then attacked." Not much in this book in the way of "bone-crushing jaws and blood-dripping teeth" or beasts "hungry for the sweet taste of a new kind of prey called humans," as that back cover would have me believe.

So the plot of the book is basically that, due to some kind of fuzzy sci-fi novel science, regular everglade animals are giving birth to their de-evolutionized prehistoric ancestors, along with a couple subplots around modern folks who's minds (but not bodies) are reverting to a primitive state due to the same fuzzy science that has dinosaurs physically hatching from alligator's and bird's eggs, and a lost tribe who's been hanging out (undetected) in the everglades for thousands of years. The cause behind all these dinosaurs and caveman mentalities has nothing at all to do with earth tremors, or caverns, or any such thing. Near as I could tell, the cause was due to solar radiation and the ozone layer and recessive genes shared by both animals and humans. Along those lines, anyway.

Overall, this is a decently written story, that's awfully short on people running for their lives from hideously aggressive prehistoric mutants. So the brain count the book ends up with reflects it being decently written, with points lost for not being what it's marketed as. (Again! How many times will you do this to me, Paperback Novel Gods?!)

Anyway. The official brain count is:


Yeah. So I couldn't find a thing on the woman who wrote this story, other than that she wrote another book the year before for the same publisher. I'm reasonably sure the author really is named Penelope Kreps, due to that being an unusual name and my Google search bringing up someone with the name living/having lived in Florida where the novel takes place. But there's not much information to be had other than that she exists. I wonder if she published anything else, under other names. I'm always curious about these things.

Oh. In case you were wondering, the book at least mentions the following beasties as it goes along:

Mentioned and seen in passing....

I think one nonfatal encounter with these guys.

We see these a fair bit. They're probably as close to a main antagonist as it gets.

Seen in passing-- I wish there'd been even a little killer Dunk-action!

See these fellas a couple times. One kills a guy.

These are just mentioned (as cubs) in the epilogue's zinger.

Here's the other main-ish creature. One kill, I think, but mostly
we're watching scientists go all doe-eyed over captured babies.

And that's it. Hopefully something King Kong-esque next time. And I really want to get back to the Bionics in Miniature soon....