Raptor Redby Robert T. Bakker. Bantam Books: New York,1995, pp.246, US: $21.95; CAN $29.95.

Set 120 million years ago, Robert T. Bakker's Raptor Red is science fiction of a special sort-- fiction with a completely scientific base. There are no time-traveling humans or Disneyfied "talking" critters. It is about life as it might actually have been lived in the early Cretaceous Period.
Raptor Red tells the story of one year in the life of a dinosaur of the predatory species Utahraptor. Bakker is an omniscient narrator who takes us as far as possible inside the heads of creatures very different from ourselves. He explains that Raptor Red "has no name for herself. Her brain doesn't operate with words, not even silent, unspoken syllables. It works with images, colorful bursts of memory that make up a dreamlike history the brain constantly updates."
Generally, Bakker succeeds in conveying animal consciousness without anthropomorphism; when he translates their thoughts into words, he writes explicitly that he is "translating." However, he should have avoided slang like "pissed off" and "cool".
Bakker emphasizes that olfactory images played as great a role in Raptor Red's thoughts as did visual and auditory signals. The dinosaurs had, as most land animals still do, a system of advertisement whereby factors of health, gender, sexual availability, species, and mood were broadcast to each other on the "dung bulletin board". Animals sniffed this "bulletin board" to learn about each other and defecated on it to tell others about themselves. Unlike our human classifieds, it allowed only truthful messages.
Raptor Red is a superb thriller when our heroine stalks and mercilessly kills prey and several times narrowly escapes being killed herself; a poignant domestic drama when she loses a mate and helps her sister raise her nieces from fumbling chicks to homicidal adults; and an enchanting romance when she is courted by a male Utahraptor.
It is never erotica since "the act" was a perfunctory once-a-year matter of seconds. Both male and female Utahraptors focused on relationships rather than sex. Perhaps "Raptor Family Values" (the title of a final chapter) possesses a quaint special appeal in today's social climate.

Denise Noe

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