Dinocalypse Now

Peer Review: Dinocalypse Now & Beyond Dinocalypse by Chuck Wendig

Time for another peer review. Disclosure: I’ve been friends with Chuck for six years, and I backed the original Kickstarter for the Dinocalypse trilogy (a series of novels based on the Spirit of the Century roleplaying game). Further, Dinocalypse Now and Beyond Dinocalypse are only the first two novels — the third one isn’t written yet. The second book picks up right after the first, and the structure reminded me a bit of Matt Forbeck’s Brave New World trilogy. You could theoretically read the second one without the first, but I think you would miss a lot, so I suggest you read them in order.

These are two pulp novels set in the 1920s (at least to start), featuring the adventures of the Century Club. These Centurions are all people born on January 1, 1900, and as a result are the epitome of humanity and do heroic stuff. They are asked to prevent the assassination of FDR. In the process, Manhattan is taken over by psychic dinosaur people. A lot of action and gripping character development ensues.

Honestly, this is a thing you either get into or you don’t. Personally, I love it. Having read a lot of original pulp novels like Doc SavageThe Shadow, and The Spider, I’ve developed a love for this mix of the bizarre and the gritty, and these two books channel that vibe wonderfully. If you can’t get past the idea of an evil mathemagician who fights an occult detective or a talking ape that teaches at Oxford and it is played straight, these books will be a hard sell. However, I found them both to be utterly charming and wonderfully fast-paced fun, and the clash of bizarre images worked for me.

Like many pastiches of historical genres, there are increased roles for women and people of color beyond what were originally presented in the 20s and 30s. In some books it can come across as excessively political and awkward, but here it is very natural and fluid. These characters feel real, not a find/replace of gender and ethnicity. Granted, when you’re writing about a disembodied brain that wants to take over the world, a little thing like fidelity to traditional gender roles seems minor, but I appreciate being able to root for a character that’s an African-American woman.

If you’ve read any of Chuck’s other work, know going in that you won’t find any of his casually foul-mouthed humor here, as it wouldn’t work with the genre. However, there are certain moments of levity and snark that all almost Whedon-esque that I appreciated just as much, if not more. It may be a little different from Chuck’s usual voice, but it’s very much Chuck’s style. I highly suggest the books if you’re already a fan of Chuck, if you like comic book-style action/adventure, or if you’re a fan of Spirit of the Century.

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