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Literature / Carnosaur

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A novel by Harry Adam Knight (a penname of Australian science fiction author John Brosnan, used for his schlockiest work), written in 1984, six years before Michael Crichton penned Jurassic Park (1990). The novel's story is vastly different from the In Name Only Roger Corman film. In it, David Pascal in Cambridgeshire, England is trying to discover the causes of a recent rash of deaths. The local bigshot, Sir Darren Penward, who collects rare and exotic predators, insists it was a Siberian tiger that escaped from his private zoo. However the lone survivor of one of the attacks, a small boy, claims it was a dinosaur.

Pascal investigates further (mostly through wooing and ultimately sleeping with Penward's wife, Jane) and discovers Penward's scientists have cloned predatory dinosaurs for him to add to his collection. Inevitably the dinosaurs escape and wreak carnage throughout Cambridgeshire as the local police attempt to battle them.

Tropes used in this novel:

  • Action Survivor: David and his girlfriend Jenny are really put through the wringer.
  • Advertised Extra: The cover blurb for the paperback edition mentions T. rex, Deinonychus, and Brachiosaurus. Out of those, only Deinonychus has a significant role in the story.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Penward's private zoo has many big cats such as leopards, tigers, and a whole pride of lions. While dangerous, they're terrified of the dinosaurs on account of Primal Fear. During the breakout several lions go for Pascal, only for the Tarbosaurus to attack and kill the lions.
  • Auto Erotica: The local MP's son and an underage girl are pulled over in a Bentley near the beginning, and become the second pair of victims to the escaped Deinonychus.
  • Bad Guy Bar: Penward's goons frequent a rural British version of one.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Jenny suffers grievous, life-changing injuries and even has her arm ripped off! She gets better, sort of..
  • Bittersweet Ending: So much so it may border Downer Ending. Penward is killed and his dinosaurs are destroyed, but not before they kill dozens of locals, including Jenny's family. Pascal and Jenny themselves almost die after being horrifically mauled by the final Deinonychus, and they likely will carry lifelong physical and psychological injuries. To top it all off, at least two Tyrannosaurus survive, meaning the horror will likely continue later on down the line.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: The romantic subplot between David and Jenny is framed as one. The break-up happened before the events of the story, and they gradually get back together events transpire.
  • But Not Too Bi: When they confront each other after she frees the dinosaurs from containment, Darren says to Jane that she's slept with "every male - and some of the females - under the age of thirty in Cambridgeshire." While her affairs with men have been well established by this point, this is the first time any lesbian affairs have been suggested. Of course, Darren could be exaggerating to sound more hurtful.
  • Carfu: The juvenile Megalosaurus is accidentally wiped out by a 20-ton lorry.
  • Collector of the Strange: Penward's hobby is collecting live predatory animals.
  • Covers Always Lie: Tor released a movie tie-in version of the novel to coincide with Corman's film, whose cover, featuring the movie poster artwork, blurts, "In the Startling Tradition of Jurassic Park!". It gets double ironic when you consider the novel predates Jurassic Park in both novel and film format by six and nine years, respectively.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: A pride of lions panics at the escaping dinosaurs and a few attack the Tarbosaurus when it rams down their fence. We see the Tarbosaurus minutes later with none of the offending lions in sight and blood on its jaws, leaving little to suspect who was victorious between the 400-pound lions and the 7-ton dinosaur.
  • Death by Irony: Besides the dinosaurs, Sir Penward's estate houses all manner of nature's extant carnivores, many of which get loose when the dinosaurs go on the rampage. The animal that's ultimately responsible for doing Penward in? One of the steers he kept as food for the dinosaurs gores him in the thigh, and it's lampshaded several times throughout the novel.
  • Death of a Child: A young girl is killed early in the story by the escaped Deinonychus.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The Deinonychus that survived the military assault on Penward's estate homes right in on Jenny's home and slaughters her family and gravely wounds both her and Pascal. What are the chances it would pick her house?
  • The Dreaded: The dinosaurs are this to humans and other mammals on account of Primal Fear. The scent and sound of the theropods causes humans to feel an instinctive panic.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: The Megalosaurus is run over by a truck while searching in vain for a mate, and never even attacks anyone. Penward potentially counts too, since despite all the dangerous dinosaurs and other carnivores in his zoo, he ultimately dies from being gored by an ordinary bull.
  • Dumb Dinos: Played with. While the dinosaurs are overly violent and bold, they're also agile, warm-blooded, and smart enough to be threatening.
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: Needless to say, the dinosaurs escape from Penward's estate and rampage across Cambridgeshire.
  • The End... Or Is It?: A mortally wounded Penward escapes with some dinosaur eggs at the end.
  • Fan Disservice: An in-universe example for David. He normally wouldn't mind seeing Jenny naked, but he's shocked to see her with another man having sex with her from behind.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Lady Jane is slowly eaten alive chunk by chunk at the jaws of the baby Tyrannosaurus pair, taking hours to finally die.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Deinonychus isn't especially durable, but is extremely agile and fast as it disembowels people with one slash; being compared to "a prehistoric exponent of kung-fu".
  • Gaia's Vengeance: This is Penward's motive. He believes that humans are not the rightful rulers of Earth, and plans to set his dinosaurs loose around the world to wipe out humanity and establish a new age of dinosaurs. Thanks to Pascal, he never got the chance.
  • Gentle Giant Sauropod: The baby Brachiosaurus is the only one of Penward's dinosaurs that is docile.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: David and Jenny make love after they escape from Penward's estate, which is the capstone to their relationship has been rekindled. This also functions as a Pre-Climax Climax, as they then go on to warn others about the incoming dinosaur attacks.
  • Gorn: People are killed and devoured in rather gruesome ways. Limbs get ripped off, guts spilled down, and the Deinonychus has a habit of going for people's face like a predatory bird.
  • Hellish Copter: Used several times by Penward and his men. Their attempts to use it against the rampaging Tarbosaurus aren't very successful however.
  • Herbivores Are Friendly: Played straight with the Brachiosaurus, but averted with the Scolosaurus.
  • I Am Not Weasel: Numerous characters—in fact, pretty much everyone except for Penward himself— mistake the Tarbosaurus for a T. rex.
  • Immune to Bullets: Subverted with the larger dinosaurs. Gun calibers meant to kill humans either fail to penetrate their hide or just get lodged in their dense muscle. The Tarbosaurus survives getting shot with multiple hunting rifles and a buckshot blast without issue. However when heavier implements are used, they do go down.
  • Intrepid Reporter: David Pascal, again.
  • It Can Think: Several characters remark on the Deinonychus having a cruel intelligence about it.
  • The Juggernaut: The Tarbosaurus tanks through attacks by a whole pride of lions, smashing through multiple metal fences, getting shot repeatedly, bashing over a helicopter, and forcing its way into a indoor mall without slowing down. The beast is only pushed back by firetruck hoses spraying into its ears and is finally killed by collapsing a multistory building on top of itself. And it wasn't even fully grown yet!
  • Karmic Death: Lady Jane, who was responsible for letting all of the dinosaurs loose is devoured by a pair of newly-hatched Tyrannosaurus rex infants at the end of the novel.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Tarbosaurus is the main large predator in the novel and alongside being strong enough to ram down walls and chew up a car, it is able to keep pace with a car until it shifts into higher gears. Even then it manages to maintain its speed long enough to catch back up to the protagonists when they get stopped. Numerous victims are caught off guard by the tyrannosaurid being much faster than its bulk would imply. Truth in Television as tyrannosaurs, other than Tyrannosaurus itself, were surprisingly fast runners.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: Darren Penward leaves Lady Jane sexually and emotionally dissatisfied, so she looks for pleasure and fulfillment through extramarital affairs.
  • Merciful Minion: Penward's goons, unlike Penward himself, have more of a moral compass and are willing to spare the life of a boy they've been ordered to kill.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Both major female characters have their sexual appeal described from David's perspective:
    • Jenny Stamper is a straightforward example, being twenty-three years old with a "splendid body" she tends to conceal behind tight clothes. David does say that her face isn't conventionally attractive; in his words, ''her nose was a little too broad and one of her front teeth was slightly crooked but the combination of large green eyes, wide, sensuous mouth, flawlwss skin and shoulder-length tumble of curly black hair was irresistible." All in all, David thinks of her as his sexual ideal, or his closest idea of one.
    • Lady Jane Penward is more of a zig-zagging example, as she is entered her forties and her body is showing signs of her age with stretch marks and sagging breasts. However, she is tall and slim with a face that is "handsome rather than attractive," which becomes beautiful When She Smiles. David also finds that her sexual expertise more than makes up for any physical flaws.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Subverted. Pascal and Jenny get slashed up and survive, but only with immediate, intensive medical care. Averted with Penward, who dies from being gored in the thigh and groin by a steer.
  • Panthera Awesome: In addition to the dinosaurs, Penward keeps many large cats such as tigers, lions, and leopards in his private zoo. They end up being released alongside the dinosaurs, and rack up a significant number of kills on their own.
  • Police Are Useless: Not only do they fail to investigate the very shady Penward even when he falsely admits several deaths were caused by a tiger he owned, but when Penward's animals break out they are hopelessly outclassed until the army shows up. A constable stops and grills Penward and Jenny after they'd stopped the car, giving the Tarbosaurus time to catch up and kill the useless officer.
  • Powerful People Are Subs: According to Jane Penward, her husband likes to be submissive and even wants to be whipped when they have sex. She actually doesn't like this, so she's evidently not a dom.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: David and Jenny have sex right before they go to warn others about the incoming dinosaur attacks. This also doubles as Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex, as they made love after escaping from Penward's estate.
  • Predators Are Mean: The carnivorous dinosaurs (and plesiosaur) are all extremely vicious, relentlessly hunting down and devouring humans. Justified in that they were fed cattle in captivity and thus view mammals as easy food. They have no fear of humans and people basically smell like candy to them. In the case of the Megalosaurus, it is an adolescent male going through sexual frustration, causing it to become more aggressive and dangerous than when it is hungry.
  • Prehistoric Monster: Despite being fairly progressive in dinosaur depictions, it is still very much guilty of this. All but one of the carnivorous dinosaurs mercilessly hunt down humans and devour them long after their appetites should be sated. This is especially weird for creatures like the plesiosaur, which would not be very well equipped to eat large, fast-moving prey like human beings. However in the case of the larger carnivores like the Deinonychus and Tarbosaurus, this could be explained in that mammals would have been a common food source for them as babies and they were fed cattle at Penward's estate. Just as humans have an atavistic fear of dinosaurs, the dinosaurs would have an atavistic instinct to equate mammals with easy food.
  • Primal Fear: In addition to the obvious (the fear of large carnivores), this is discussed in the novel. Just the smell of the dinosaurs is enough to terrify people.
  • Quizzical Tilt: Both the Deinonychus and the Tarbosaurus do this before attacking, in order to highlight their bird-like traits. Several times they are compared to looking like giant, toothy eagles.
  • Raptor Attack: Deinonychus is the most common dinosaur in the book. Pretty commendable given this predates the Trope Codifier by six years, effectively making it one of the Trope Makers. The novel Deinonychus is arguable even closer to the truth than Crichton's, given they hunt alone, prefer prey their own size or smaller, and are compared to birds many times. All they're missing is feathers.
  • Rich Bitch: Jane Penward, a nymphomaniac who offers David access to the estate in exchange of being committed to her, and when David goes to help Jenny, she becomes furious and releases all the dinosaurs in the zoo.
  • Rich Recluse's Realm: Penward's estate, which is closed off to the public, so that no one can see what's actually going on inside it.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Penward doesn't so much screw the rules as not even believe they exist in the first place.
  • Sequel Hook: Two Tyrannosaurus hatch and no one knows where they are. The final lines leave things open for a follow-up story, but none was ever written.
  • Sex Signals Death: In one of the few sequences that actually gets somewhat depicted in the film, two locals are mauled to death by a Deinonychus while getting it on in their car.
  • Shown Their Work: The author almost certainly did a lot of research for this and it shows. It's pretty impressive that a novel from several years before Jurassic Park came out was as accurate (to what was known at the time) as it was about dinosaur physiology and behavior.
    • It's pointed out multiple times that plesiosaurs aren't dinosaurs!
    • The book repeatedly emphasizes how bird-like some of the predatory dinosaurs look and behave, which causes an Uncanny Valley effect on anyone seeing them as most of the characters in-universe are expecting big, slow, lizard-like monsters. When the Deinonychus and Tarbosaurus feed, they're compared to carnivorous birds in how they pin their prey down with a foot and rip into it with their jaws. This theory actually is well accepted even today (and made its way into Jurassic Park), and all supporting evidence for it came after the book was published! One could say Jurassic Park is merely the Trope Codifier in the public's mind of dinosaurs being warm-blooded proto-birds rather than giant, cold-blooded lizards and this book, at least in fiction, is the Trope Maker. It's notable as while the bird-dinosaur connection theory had been around since the 1860s, it had largely been pushed to the wayside in the 1920s with alternatives enjoying much wider support until the 1970s; and even then well in the 1980s it was divisive.
    • The manner in which the dinosaurs were created is actually much more realistic than the one presented in Jurassic Park. While Jurassic Park shows its dinosaurs being produced through somatic cell transfer cloning, this is actually impossible for animals that lay shelled eggs.note  In Carnosaur, on the other hand, the dinosaurs are created by altering the genetic structures of modern-day birds. This is theoretically doable (assuming we had dinosaur DNA to use) and indeed the idea of turning birds into dinosaur-like creatures has been taken seriously by at least a few scientists.
  • Storming the Castle: Pascal manages to sneak his way into Penward's estate but is soon captured and more focused on escape for himself and his girlfriend to cause damage. It's Lady Jane who causes chaos when she shuts off the fencing to turn the dinosaurs loose.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Lady Jane is a zig-zagging case. Darren Penward is clearly an evil person, and this extends to being an unloving husband to her; she genuinely views her affair with David as a potential escape to a happier life. However, she has quite a few bad qualities of her own, and is ultimately responsible for all the people killed after she releases the dinosaurs.
  • Terrifying Tyrannosaur: Tarbosaurus is given the role of the main big predator in the story. T. rex is also in the book, but the only ones shown are a pair of hatchlings that appear at the end to eat Lady Jane.
  • This Bear Was Framed: Penward blames the fatalities caused by his escaped Deinonychus on a tiger from his private menagerie.
  • Token Good Teammate: The Brachiosaurus is the only dinosaur that isn't a hungry predator or territorial herbivore.
  • Tough Armored Dinosaur: Scolosaurus is one of the only two herbivorous dinosaurs in Penward's zoo. It's also the one herbivore that's aggressive, attacking and destroying a tank.
  • Villain Ball: Penward's plan to have Pascal and Jenny fed to his lions and thinking that Jane would just take his treatment lying down were his plan's undoing. Had he simply shot all three dead, he could have probably spun any number of stories about them trespassing(in Jenny's and possibly David's case) and/or attacking him and forcing him to defend himself(regarding Jane and David's affair, for instance) and gotten away with it given his status.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Regarding the above, David, at one point actually does attempt to throttle Penward, who then orders the guard accompanying them to simply knock David out as gently as possible, saying "The less bruising, the better."
  • Would Hurt a Child: Penward plans to have Simon, the little boy that survived the third dinosaur attack, murdered, after his Mooks fail to do it themselves. Fortunately he's distracted by more pressing matters before he can do so, as the dinos get loose, rendering the issue of the boy moot, and Penward forgets about him.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Unlike their boss, Penward's goons opt not to kill Simon, due to not liking the idea of killing a child, reasoning no one would believe him.