Dinosaur Park, by Hayford Peirce

Review by Stephen Theaker

Like Kirth Gersen, hero of Jack Vance’s Demon Princes quintet, Kerryl Ryson loses his family in tragic circumstances and swears vengeance on all those responsible. As a boy he lives on the rural world of Stohlson’s Redemption, where domesticated dinosaurs fill every role from elephant to shire horse to cow, but a prologue tells us he will end up in the power of “the twelve Palatines who comprised the Colloquy of the Duze Majestrals”, trapped in the central fastness of their Crystal Tower, “hemmed in on all sides by determined and ferocious leperons, totally immobilized by neuronic grapples”. How did he get there, and why are they so afraid of him?

Dinosaur Park begins as a pastiche of Jack Vance, but Vance’s natural mode is to view his characters and the worlds they visit with such arch irony that the parodic aspect of this book is quickly subsumed into pure emulation of Vance’s style. On its initial publication (as The Thirteenth Majestral) it attracted praise from Vance himself, and I can hardly disagree. The conclusion here is perhaps not as violently satisfying as those of its inspirations, but Peirce maintains an enjoyable detachment from his protagonist, leaving the reader to consider that his cause – and his actions – aren’t always as justified as he thinks. The worst thing I can find to say about this quirky, elegant and highly diverting novel is that it left me looking in vain for another new book in my collection so finely attuned to my particular tastes.

Dinosaur Park, by Hayford Peirce, Wildside Press, epub, 198pp