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Literature / Dinoverse

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A Young Adult book series, which is in short, about junior high students who get transported back in time and turned into dinosaurs.

Written by Scott Ciencin, and published rapid-fire between 1999 and 2000. One just called Dinoverse came out first, then was later divided into I Was a Teenage T. Rex and The Teens That Time Forgot. After that came Raptor Without a Cause, Please Don't Eat the Teacher, Dinosaurs Ate My Homework, and Beverley Hills Brontosaurus. Each pair of books has its own set of characters, though the third pair has Mr. London from the second set and Bertram from the first return.

The setup for this fantastic premise involves Teen Genius, Bertram making a memory interpreter device for the school science fair. His machine somehow has the ability to transport people's minds back in time into the bodies of dinosaurs.

The first pair, I Was a Teenage T. Rex and The Teens Time Forgot, (later re-released as a single volume)has Bertram and three other students sent back to the late Cretaceous period. The three other students, Mike, Candayce, and Janine get changed into a Tyrannosaurus rex, a Leptoceratops, and a Quetzalcoatlus, respectively, and Bertram becomes an Ankylosaurus. They have to trek across the country to get to a certain point or risk being stuck in the Cretaceous forever.

The second pair has Will, Zane, Patience, and their teacher Mr. London get sent into the mid-Cretaceous and possess a Deinonychus, a type of Brontosaurus, an Acrocanthosaurus, and a Hypsilophodon, respectively. Their task involves an amber key and preventing some kind of extinction event.

In the third set the formula changes. Now a whole horde of middle schoolers are sent back along with the MIND Machine. The main characters this time are Bertram again, new kid Aaron, JD "Judgement Day" Harms, and Claire. They take the bodies of a pair of brother Dilophosaurus, a small Apatosaurus, and a Carcharodontosaurus. They have to survive, try to fix the machine, and worry about a new plot involving alternate dimensions.

This series provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Bertram's memory interpreter... which somehow manages to send people's minds back in time. When Dinoverse was converted into I Was A Teenaged T. Rex and The Teens Time Forgot, a line of Technobabble was added stating that they'd been converted into 'pure thought-energy brainwaves'.
  • Alpha Bitch: Candayce. She gets better.
  • Alternate Animal Affection: Nuzzling.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Many of the dinosaurs are brightly colored.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: All of the dinosaurs and pterosaurs are quite intelligent, and the ones with what could pass as hands have humanlike grasping ability and shoulder rotation. Junior/Hook's intelligence is a plot point in the second pair of books, in which normal dinosaurs also frequently nod agreement or approval and pick up tool use after it's shown to them.
  • Animals Not to Scale: All over the place. Some scale is used, but the differences aren't generally that dramatic - which looks odd when you consider the indexes at the back of the books, which have scale drawings of these dinosaurs next to humans, and the differences are striking.
  • Animorphism: Subverted. Not quite a transformation and yet not quite a case of Body Snatching. In the Dinoverse characters can have their minds transferred into the bodies of dinosaurs that lived millions of years in the past. Usually this is by accident, and the dinosaurs don't have their minds transported to the future (at least not until the end) so it's not exactly a "Freaky Friday" Flip either.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology:
    • Aside from anything bipedal having useable hands and human-style shoulder flexibility, it's generally averted. Lots of things are dated now, but were believed at the time. It does get brought up in the final set, though, in which the MIND Machine's gone berzerk and we have kids inhabiting dinosaurs from many eras in one place and time.
    • T. rex living exclusively on fish?!
    • The first book has an Elasmosaurus using its neck to constrict like a snake. Plesiosaur necks don't work like that.
  • Beautiful All Along: Patience. She lampshades the trope angrily when it's first brought up, but apparently decides to go with it later.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Zane acts like the Class Clown when he's actually extremely intelligent, because he thinks people wouldn't accept him if he wasn't funny.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Mike becomes a tyrannosaurus, and initially he angsts and starves himself over the fact that he has to eat things that, for all intents and purposes, resemble his friends. He resolves the issue by eating fish. When Patience becomes a similarly-sized acrocanthosaurus she elects for carrion and small rodents. Will the deinonychus also eats small rodents, but goes for salamanders too. They're not quite as squeamish as Mike, but they too refuse to kill other dinosaurs for food. In the third set this is skimmed over entirely, and the only thing carnivorous characters eat is fish.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: The rebellious graffiti artist Janine resents how her mother is often not at home, forcing her to miss school in order to prepare the hotel for guests herself. As it turns out, her mother is keeping Janine from getting in trouble over the graffiti - she never confronted her daughter because she feared Janine would run away.
  • Dinosaur Talk: Subverted. The main characters explicitly can't speak English, but they all have Psychic Powers while in these different bodies, and use them. They also make dinosaur noises, but it's clear that if they didn't have those psychic powers, understanding each other and the dinosaurs they encounter would be a lot more difficult.
  • Dude Magnet: Candayce. This extends even to when she becomes a Leptoceratops, as she ends up attracting a small harem of male Leptoceratopses who practically worship her.
  • Dumb Dinos: Averted — the non-transformed dinosaurs the protagonists encounter are often friendly, intelligent, and helpful.
  • Follow the Leader: The Dinoverse series probably wouldn't have been created had it not been for the immense popularity of Animorphs. Scott Ciencin was also the author of several of the Dinotopia spin-off novels, which probably also played a hand in its creation.
  • Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: There's a form of this - Janine had a close friend who publicly rejected her to get into Candayce's inner circle, but in private told her that they could still be friends as long as no one knew. Unsurprisingly, Janine has a grudge against Candayce — in the end, though, they work it out and become Vitriolic Best Buds.
  • Fostering for Profit: Patience lives with the Mushnicks, who give her food and board in exchange for a monthly paycheck and are completely indifferent to her, which she claims is how she likes it. Notably, she doesn't even use their last name.
  • Gasshole: Bertram's high-fibre diet and multi-chambered stomach as an ankylosaur lead to a lot of flatulence.
    • Runt the Pleurocoleus (brontosaurus) also has his share. Zane — who ended up in the body of Runt's older sibling - suggests lighting some of it on fire.
  • Giant Flyer: Quetzalcoatalus is the largest known pterosaur and can have a wingspan of up to 15.5 meters/50 feet. Janine is one of these.
  • Going Native: Janine ends up buggering off to go live with actual quetzalcoatli for a while.
  • Heel–Face Turn: J.D., once in the body of a rather small sauropod, starts claiming to have changed and become more caring. There are some hints of Becoming the Mask, but it's still in his own self-interest - he doesn't want to go home, so he arranges to break the remains of the MIND Machine, turn everyone against the idea of fixing it, and get the one kid who sees through him exiled. When he gets a vision from his alternate-reality self, though, he goes through an epiphany, leading to...
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: The others find out what he's been doing and refuse to believe him.
  • Humanity Ensues: There's a gag at the end of the first set where three Pachycephalosaurs briefly possess the bodies of three humans, but it's not permanent. However, at the end of Please Don't Eat The Teacher, GK ends up in Will's human body. Along with Will. And at the end of the series, the brontosaurus scientist Jae'Dee from the Dinoverse voluntarily takes the vacated body of JD Harms. Both of these are permanent.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite a bunch of teenagers going millions of years into the past everything ends up exactly the same when they come back.
    • It's a Stable Time Loop. The four carve in the past the stones that mark the place in the present. Janine scribbles "WAS HERE" into one of them.
    • Alternate universes may be involved in the second set of books. It's basically stated that Hook is unusually smart, and saving him is tied to the Dinoverse which has peaceful highly-evolved dinosaurs in the present day.
  • Interspecies Romance: Of a sort. Several of the kids sent back in time and into other bodies end up in maybe-sort-of relationships with creatures of the same species.
  • My Nayme Is: Candayce.
  • The Nicknamer: Pretty much every character meets at least one native that they subsequently name. In the first pair, Mike calls his rival T. Rex Moriarty. Janine calls an Elasmosaurus Nessie, a 'slow' Quetzalcoatlus Bobo, a Triceratops Mc Gurk, and her semi-boyfriend quetzalcoatlus Loki the Trickster. In her cameo in a later book, she calls skater boy Aaron "Slick" after he offends the school bully, and refers to Mr. London as Mr. L. Canadayce calls her leptoceraptopsian admirers things like Han and Bluto. Bertram calls the ankylosaur who falls in love with him Beanie - "because she's brown and round. Like a bean."
    • In the second pair, Will names a variety of raptors things like Big Guy, Buddy, Binky, and Junior (later he renames it Hook). He then calls a Tenotosaurus "Tink". Zane calls his body's little brother "Runt". Patience names the first Acrocanthosaurus she meets Number 47, the number of her personal enemy, calls the chivalrous one who likes her first Green Knight, and later GK, and when she meets her body's parents she calls them Mom and Pop Brady. Mr. London names his little posse of hypsilophodon friends Leo (after Leonardo da Vinci), Albert (after Albert Einstein), Carl (after Carl Sagan), and Hal (after HAL-9000).
  • The Nose Knows: Kids in the form of big predators invariably have this ability. When Will and GK end up Sharing a Body, they end up keeping this power despite being human-shaped.
  • Linear Dinosaurs, Quadratic Pterosaur: In any given book it doesn't take long for kids in dinosaur bodies to get the hang of it and become as good at any given task as others of the species. They're also just about universally strong and sturdy. Janine in a Quetzalcoatlus body is substantially less sturdy and takes a long time and pronounced effort to learn to fly — but flight is a very intensely useful ability. Flying, Janine could solve nearly every problem the group faces - she could find lost party members, scout out areas for resources and threats, retrieve items from far away, and escape hazards herself. After she learns to fly most of the rest of the book has her absent or unable to fly, for one reason or another. In all the later books, no one else is put into a body that flies.
  • Picked Last: Will, as a raptor in a pack which is splitting to go hunting, finds himself this.
  • Predators Are Mean: A constant refrain in the series, though the ones who fish aren't, and GK is seen as outright noble.
  • Seashell Bra: Despite not having anything to cover, Candayce doesn't feel comfortable going naked. She tries sticking leaves on with sap — they fall off. Janine takes pity and makes her a top-and-bottom out of seashells with holes poked in them and strung together by vines; this lasts a little longer.
  • Shown Their Work: All of the dinosaurs described are from the Cretaceous, and although Scott Ciencin does include stock dinosaurs, many of the species shown are rather obscure.
  • Shout-Out: Janine once sings the lyrics to My Little Buttercup.
    • Candayce tries to scare off a T. rex by projecting the sound of Godzilla’s roar into its brain.
  • Split Personality: At the end of Please Don't Eat The Teacher, Will and GK - a native acrocanthosaurus who has struck up a relationship with Patience and doesn't eat her friends for her sake, even though he doesn't understand - both sacrifice themselves at the same time in pretty much the same place, an instant before all our wayward humans are plunked back to where they belong. Except, as Will discovers when he's at a party with Patience, GK ended up coming with him, and the dinosaur recognizes Patience and is able to take over Will's body to nuzzle her. All three parties are happy about this.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Moriarty in the first set, who follows them through earthquakes and over hundreds of miles, despite first meeting them on a beach full of gigantic sea turtles, far easier prey. Bertram once speculates that it's because as an ankylosaur, a tyrannosaur, a quetzalcoatlus (sometimes) and a leptoceratops, they're a very weird group and that might signal disease to him.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Especially at first, Patience and GK are very much like Janine and Loki. Patience and Janine are a pair of outcast girls who are different degrees of hostile to the rest of middle school society, who have unhappy pasts and seem to have better lots in life in the Cretaceous, and have to learn to trust again while in different bodies. They each have a companion of the same species who hangs around and tries to be helpful, and who they quickly come to like a lot. But while Janine and Loki part without difficulty - she once thinks of him as basically her first boyfriend, but his attentions never seem anything but platonic - Patience and GK don't. And it's not so platonic with them, as seen near the end of the book when he's a Split Personality to Will who is intrigued by this human concept of kissing.