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Literature / Primitive War

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First book cover
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Primitive War is a military sci-fi series written by Ethan Pettus which takes place during the Cold War.

The premise of the first book is the following:

A search and rescue team known as Vulture Squad is sent to an isolated jungle valley to uncover the fate of a missing Green Beret platoon. As they hunt through the primordial depths of the valley, they discover ancient horrors that not only threaten to unravel their minds, but to end their lives as well. When the casualties mount, the men of Vulture Squad must abandon their human nature and give in to their savage instincts in order to survive...the Primitive War.

Being set during some of the most violent conflicts of the Cold War (The Vietnam War in the first novel and The Hunting of Stalker Force, and the Angolan Civil War in an upcoming sequel), it features a lot of graphic violence, adult language, drug use, and references to war-related tragedies. The series is also notable for having dinosaurs and other prehistoric species being depicted in a mostly scientifically accurate fashion.

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In addition to the main series of novels, there are an illustrated bestiary and an anthology series called Primitive War: Dispatches.

Main series:

1. Primitive War (2017)

2. Primitive War II : Animus Infernal (2020)

Spin-offs/Companion Books:

1. The Primitive War Bestiary (2018)

2. Primitive War Dispatches : The Hunting of Stalker Force (2019)


This series provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – History: The dinosaurs are all referred by their taxonomic names, even when those names were not coined until well after the Vietnam War in Real Life.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: for all the accuracy given, the book does still have its fair share of inaccuracies:
    • Both Utahraptor and Kaprosuchus are heavily oversized, the former being 2 feet taller than it’s real life counterpart and the latter being up to 6 feet taller.
    • Kaprosuchus is depicted with long legs, when its placement within Notisuchia implies it would have legs slightly longer than modern crocodilians.
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    • Amargasaurus is depicted with sails, when it is now believed its long spines were individual structures covered in keratin.
  • Badass Crew: The Vulture Squad and Stalker Force.
  • Barbarian Long Hair: Xavier has some.
  • Big Bad: Soviet general Borodin is this in the first novel.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Poor Logan, devoured by a horde of Kaprosuchus.
    • Borodin is dragged back to the utahraptor nest and disemboweled so that the utahraptor chicks can crawl inside of him and eat his organs while he's still alive.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • The Yutyrannus pair easily slaughter a group of four utahraptors when they first appear. However, this is mainly because they had the advantage of surprise.
    • The preview of Animus Infernal shows a Carcharodontosaurus easily killing a pair of Carnotaurus. Not surprising, given the size difference between the two animals.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Given the setting, several of the main characters didn't exactly acted like saints in previous operations and the life of some before the war wasn't of the most pleasant.
  • Death from Above: The Deinonychus drops on their prey from tree branches. The Quetzalcoatlus roams the skies of the Vietnamese valley where the story takes place and attacks people on several occasions.
  • The Dreaded:
    • The Yutyrannus in The Hunting of Stalker Force are this to the utahaptors as they systematically exterminate the packs of raptors they found.
    • The utahraptors themselves are this to the humans who have to deal with them. Strong, fast, numerous, and highly intelligent, they are the greatest single threat to the valley and the wider world.
  • Everything Is Better With Dinosaurs: The series (or the first books at least) could be summarized as Apocalypse Now meets The Lost World.
  • General Ripper: Both Borodin and Jericho falls under this trope.
  • Genre-Busting: The series mixes Vietnam War fictions and dinosaur horror.
  • Genre Throwback: Vietnam War films.
  • Gentle Giant Sauropod:
    • Amargasaurus appears in The Hunting of Stalker Force and are depicted as relatively peaceful animals.
    • The Giraffatitan from Animus Infernal also count, with a Carcharodontosaurus taking a full grown adult down with very little effort inspite of the size difference.
  • Gorn: This series has a lot of gore.
  • It Can Think: The utahraptors consistently show intelligence well above that of other dinosaurs. Near the end of Animus Infernal, they show the capacity to "negotiate" with other packs and even bury their dead, suggesting a near-human intellect.
  • Kill the Cutie: The nurse who tends to Leon gets shot.
  • Lost World: Subverted. The valley seems to be this at first but it’s later revealed that the prehistoric creatures encountered arrived in modern time thanks to a Soviet particle accelerator malfunction.
  • Mama Bear:
    • The female of the T. rex couple.
    • Mother Gaia the Carcharodontosaurus from Animus Infernal is deeply protective of her infant Prometheus. Most impressively, when the male Carcharodontosaurus Goliath attacks Prometheus, the Mother Gaia attacks the Goliath in a rage and ultimately kills him.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Done deliberately. Most of the dinosaurs are from different places and times and would never have met each other under normal conditions. On top of that, none of them were actually from Vietnam. This is because they arrived in the present through an accidentally-made wormhole that led to multiple points in the past.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Seen in Cryolophosaurus, which lives in matriarchal prides consisting of a female and several males. The females are a few feet longer and about half a ton heavier than the males. Curiously, no other dinosaurs show this kind of sexual dimorphism.
  • New Meat: Leon is a recent addition to the Vulture Squad.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: The Kaprosuchus.
  • Papa Wolf: The male of the T. rex couple.
  • Red Right Hand: The alpha Utahraptor "Sobek" gets his name from the Kaprosuchus teeth embedded in his head and face. Similarly, "Cyclops" has a knife stuck in one eye. Probably most prominent is Xipetotec, a Utahraptor with burn scars from a napalm strike covering most of his body.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Amargasaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, Cryolophosaurus, Kaprosuchus, Giraffatitan, Sinornithosaurus, Suchomimus, and Yutyrannus appeared in the series.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: A given due to the setting. A number of the characters, such as Logan, shows PTSD.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Yutyrannus treatment in The Hunting of Stalker Force is similar to that of the Carnotaurus from The Lost World (1995) as they are nocturnal predators with camouflage abilities feared by the raptors.
  • Social Ornithopod: Parasaurolophus are depicted as being gregarious.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Ankylosaurus, Carnotaurus, Deinonychus, Gallimimus, Maiasaura, Pachycephalosaurus, Pachyrhinosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Psittacosaurus, Quetzalcoatlus, Stygimoloch, Therizinosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus, and Utahraptor appeared in the series.
  • The Vietnam War: The setting.
  • Xenofiction: The Hunting of Stalker Force has some chapters dedicated to the POV of the Utahraptors.
  • Zerg Rush: Deinonychus, Kaprosuchus, and Utahraptor often attack this way.
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