Dinosaurs Rule The Earth In Saurischian Press' 'Terrible Lizards: A Dinosaur Horror Anthology'

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Since the first recorded discoveries of their fossilized remains in the early nineteenth century, dinosaurs (Greek for ‘Terrible Lizard’), have captivated our collective consciousness. During their approximately 140 million-year reign during the Mesozoic Era, dinosaurs varying in size from the Compsognathus—no larger than a domestic chicken—to Brachiosaurus, which is known to exceed fifty tons, dominated the earth, and their extinction baffles as much as it intrigues. The simple fact that dinosaurs no longer exist (except, as many scientists concede, the modern-day birds into which some evolved) is perhaps what excites our minds the most; the notion that an entirely different world arose, thrived, and then disappeared before humankind ever appeared captures the imagination in boundless ways. We marvel at their bones, daydream of their primal prehistoric power through works of literature and film; dinosaurs speak to us of a primordial past we cannot entirely grasp, and therein lies the attraction. That some of the carnivorous breeds inspire horror with monstrous maws of razor-sharp teeth is a dark extension of that allure; we can all-too-easily envision ourselves being devoured.

Saurischian Press editor Kyle J. Durrant understands the potency in that mixture of fascination and fright with the thirteen selected stories of the new multi-author fiction collection, Terrible Lizards. Subtitled A Dinosaur Horror Anthology Supporting the RSPB, it’s a tour-de-force successfully designed to invoke equal parts wonder and fear.

The volume starts strong with A.W. Mason’s ‘Terror on Central Park West’, about a high school field trip to a history museum where the fossilized exhibits return to murderous life. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic ‘The Lost World’ clearly inspired two tales thereafter: Derek Hutchin’s ‘The Hidden Grotto’, about a crew of spelunkers on a rescue mission in a dinosaur-populated cave, and Andrew Jackson’s rootin’-tootin’ six-shootin’ Old West-set ‘The Beast From Before’. Two teenagers living on a military base discover dinosaurs aren’t part of the Halloween festivities when they attend ‘A Primitive Party’ by Nicole Neill.

The book’s second half gets underway with blood-soaked battlefield backdrop of Ethan J. Pollard’s ‘As Gods Upon The Land’, in which a mysterious elite corps of knights magically conjure dinosaurs as war beasts to destroy a vicious enemy force. Sarah and her girlfriend, Rose, risk everything when they enter a deep-immersion dinosaur virtual reality program without turning on its ‘Safety Protocols’ in Samuel M. Hallam’s tense tale. A family on a cross-country trip inadvertently drive through a portal to the Cretaceous period in C.D. Kester’s thrilling ‘Lost In Time’, only to learn that humans are far more dangerous than any dinosaur. A man’s fondness for Mad Max provides some exotic imagery when the motorcycle-riding cosplay group he leads encounters a pterodactyl in the desert of ‘Terror Dawn’ by Loki DeWitt. Closing out the volume, Megan Kiekel Anderson’s ‘Danielle and the Diplodocus’ provides a welcome thematic link to the introductory story, as a bullied girl on a class trip establishes a psychic rapport with with a dinosaur who offers a chance for revenge.

Durrant’s editorial instincts were superb when compiling Terrible Lizards. Deftly avoiding any filler, every entry entertains, and though some repetition exists in terms of individual story scenarios (intrepid explorers happening upon remote environs populated by dinosaurs in the modern day is a recurring premise), the tome largely avoids the repetitious pitfalls common to many themed anthologies. Action is never in short supply, either, and though the book is marketed as horror, there’s ample genre variety: sci-fi, humor, teen drama, even epic fantasy.

With such an outstanding table of contents, four stories still deserve special recognition. Commentary on the 2023 Titan submersible implosion lurks in Jamie Stewart’s ‘Livestream’, when a narcissistic billionaire recklessly leads an expedition to a mysterious isle. A mission to gather Tyrannosaur eggs for cancer research leaves a professional poacher trapped in a nest between an angry momma and sharp-shooting corporate rivals in Wesley Winters’ furious ‘Burning Dawn’.

Salmonweird author M.G. Mason goes full-auto with ‘Age of the DinosaurZ’, which sees a military unit trapped in the past engage in a desperate battle against dinos infected with an undead pathogen that turns them (and anyone they bite) into ravenous zombies.

But for sheer jaw-dropping irony, the valedictorian of Terrible Lizards is undoubtedly Kay Hanifen’s ‘Please Don’t Feed The Plesiosaur’; the inventive premise involves a bio-engineering firm introducing the titular dinosaur into Scotland’s famous Loch Ness as a potential tourist magnet, but its the surprise ending that earns Hanifen’s effort the blue ribbon.

Whether a reader loves dinosaurs or not (and really, shouldn’t one be suspicious of those who don’t love dinosaurs?), Terrible Lizards makes for exhilarating entertainment. Fast-paced and energetic, its selected tales revel in the awe these great creatures commanded. That the book’s proceeds will be donated to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is an added charitable bonus, and will ensure that dinosaurs—or their modern-day avian descendants, in any event—will continue to prosper 65 million years from now.

I hereby grant Terrible Lizards: A Dinosaur Horror Anthology a roaring 4 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale. Recommended for Jurassic Park fans, monster movie aficionados, and the young-at-heart wherever they may be. Dinosaurs will rule the earth again!

4.0 / 5.0