Thomas F. Monteleone
JournalStone (March 18, 2022)
Reviewed by Andrew Byers
Do you like dinosaurs? I remember going through a phase when I was much younger in which I was utterly obsessed with them—a lot of people probably do. I suspect that Thomas Monteleone may be similarly obsessed. He certainly needs no introduction from me; you probably know him from his prolific career as a horror novelist (I still remember his The Blood of the Lamb very fondly), but if not, you’ve almost certainly read one (or all) of his Borderlands anthologies that pushed the boundaries of what modern horror could be in the 1990s and 2000s. And if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading any of his fiction, correct that oversight immediately!
But Timewalker is his latest effort, a novella that is the story of Edward Drinker Cope, a scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the nineteenth century’s most important paleontologists. Cope was engaged in a decades-long feud with Othniel Charles Marsh, a Yale paleontologist, in what came to be called the “Bone Wars,” as both men sought to discover new species of fossils and become the preeminent paleontologist. (These are real historical figures, feel free to…oh heck, I can’t help myself…bone up on them.)
Here, in 1876, Cope is out west on a dig seeking dinosaur fossils. He’s not having much luck, and is facing the prospect of a wasted expedition until he saves the life of Red Moon, a Crow medicine man who Cope soon learns also calls himself a “timewalker.” Red Moon can literally, physically travel into the past, and in discharging his debt to Cope, he offers to take Cope into the distant past to see actual living, breathing dinosaurs, then take note of where they died so their fossilized bones can be located. What could go wrong?
Monteleone’s writing chops are on full display here: Cope, an actual historical figure, and the rest of the cast come alive in Monteleone’s prose. Timewalker isn’t a thriller in the vein of Jurassic Park, but its pacing is solid and the pages will fly right by.
Timewalker is a really nice piece of historical fiction—well, maybe alternative history is a better sub-genre for it—with a good sense of blended menace and wonder. Plus, it’s got dinosaurs! Recommended.