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Literature / Carnosaur

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A novel by Harry Adam Knight (a penname of Australian sf author John Brosnan, used for his schlockiest work), written in the 80's, some time prior to Jurassic Park. 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 ringer.
  • 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 felines.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Penward.
  • Auto Erotica: Horny teens Pat and Jeremy boink in a Bentley at the beginning, before getting rudely interrupted and eaten.
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  • Bad-Guy Bar: Penward's goons frequent a rural British version of one.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Jenny gets some grievous injuries and even has her arm ripped off! She gets better, sort of..
  • Carfu: The sub-adult Megalosaurus gets taken out by a 20-ton lorry on accident.
  • Cassandra Truth: David Pascal.
  • 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. Especially Egregious considering the simple fact that neither of those characters are in the novel, although a reader who never saw the movie would just assume its what the two unrelated main characters of the novel look like. It even extends to the dinosaur on the cover, which is an adult Tyrannosaurus rex. While the Tyrant Lizard King is present in the book, it's only in infant form and the main threat comes from a similar Tarbosaurus who is a completely different coloration than the film beast.
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  • 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 without one of the offending lions in sight and blood on its jaws, leaving little to suspect who was victorious between the 150-200 kilogram lions and the 6,350 kilogram 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 for feeding purposes gores him in the thigh, and it's lampshaded several times throughout the novel.
  • Death by Sex:
    • In one of the few sequences that actually gets somewhat depicted in the film, Pat and Jeremy are mauled to death by a Deinonychus while getting it on in their car.
    • Sort of applies to the Megalosaurus, an adolescent male who gets run down by an articulated truck while searching in vain for a mate.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The Deinonychus that Pascal forgets about 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.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: It takes dropping a building on top of it to finally kill the Tarbosaurus.
  • 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.
  • 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 Bruce Lee with knives on its feet.
  • Friend on the Force: Constable Keith Driscoll.
  • Gorn: People are killed and devoured in rather gruesome ways.
  • 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.
  • 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 tanks getting shot with multiple hunting rifles and a buckshot blast without issue. However when heavier implements are used, they do go down. It just takes artillery pieces and anti-tank rounds in some cases.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. Fiona gets killed.
  • 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 repeated, 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 finally killed by collapsing a multistory building on top of it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Police are Useless: Not only do they fail to investigate the very shady Penward even when he falsely admits several murders were from a tiger he owned, but when Penward's dinosaurs and panthers break out they are hopelessly outclassed until the army shows up.
  • Predators Are Mean: Almost all of the carnivorous dinosaurs (and one plesiosaur) are extremely vicious, relentlessly hunting down and devouring humans. Justified in that they were fed cattle in captivity and thus view mammals as easy food. The Megalosaurus is more or less an exception, being more interested in searching for a mate than for prey.
  • 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 Dilophosaurus and 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.
  • 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.
  • Rich Bitch: Jane Penward.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Penward doesn't so much screw the rules as not even believe they exist in the first place.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Knight uses Tarbosaurus instead of a T. rex as the novel's main threat. Altispinax and Scolosaurus briefly turn up as well. Megalosaurus is an example of a seldom-seen stock dinosaur.
  • Sequel Hook: Two Tyrannosaurus hatch and no one knows where they are at. Considering it's been about 30 years, and the author died, it's unlikely to be followed up on.
  • Shown Their Work: The author almost certainly did a lot of research for this and it shows. They even pointed out multiple times that plesiosaurs aren't dinosaurs! Other times it emphasizes how bird-like some of the predatory dinosaurs behave. 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! 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. The actual theory had been around for a while, and it's pretty impressive that a novel from several years before JP came out was as accurate (to what was known at the time) as it was about dinosaur physiology and behavior.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Some are featured. To wit:
    • Brachiosaurus is briefly featured.
    • Deinonychus is the most featured dinosaur of all, and it's arguably great stock in all but name. Interestingly, this was before raptors were made stock dinosaurs.
    • Dilophosaurus is featured. This is also before it was made stock, and as such, isn't depicted as frilled or venomous.
    • Megalosaurus makes a few appearances.
    • A plesiosaur (unknown exactly which kind) is a big threat as well.
    • Lastly, two baby Tyrannosaurus are hatched.
    • So, to sum it up, 2 great stock, 3 secondary stock, 1 rarely-seen stock, and the rest are non-stock.
  • 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.
  • Token Good Teammate: The Brachiosaurus is the only dinosaur that isn't a violent monster.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Downplayed. The only ones featured are a pair of hatchlings which only appear in the end devouring Lady Jane. The very similar, but still distinct Tarbosaurus instead takes its place as the main threat.
  • 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.


Example of: