April 19, 2013

Crazy Apes: a review of Chuck Wendig's "Dinocalypse Now"

Dinocalypse Now
by Chuck Wendig
Evil Hat Productions (2012)
231 pages

I didn't have a clue about Dinocalypse Now's connection to a role playing game until after reading it. It wouldn't have impacted my reaction to the story, though looking back, I kind of see how the constant action and outlandish characters would lend themselves to that kind of game. Spirit of the Century is the name of the game, with a very strong pulp adventure element from the early- to mid-twentieth century.

To describe the plot, I can go one of two ways: either bullet point the convoluted roller coaster ride that ensues or boil it down to a single sentence. Let's try the latter. A ragtag group of adventurers battle a talking ape and his dinosaur army. If you need more than that to hop on board, this ain't the book the for you.

The Century Club, a band of astonishing hero-types of every stripe, are tasked with providing security for President Franklin D. Roosevelt during a monumental speech, when a sudden appearance of dinosaurs and lizard people creates havoc. FDR isn't the target, however, but the Century Club. Their headquarters around the globe are targeted, destroyed, and nearly all its members are captured or killed. The few who remain are left to find out who is responsible and how to stop an army of dinosaurs and lizard people with mind control powers.

In a little more than two hundred pages, this novel moves like a bullet from one action scene to the next. If played out like a role playing game, the dice would be rolling near constantly. And somehow, Chuck Wendig manages to sneak in a little character development, which was much appreciated because the archetype characters could have been quite tedious without it.

The names of the characters are fantastic. Jet Black, Mack Silver, and Sally Slick have a Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia vibe respectively, and King Khan the sentient ape was a great villain of the classic moustache-twirling variety. Who the hell cares why he is trying to take over the world in the way he is. It's pure spectacle, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.. There are preposterous events aplenty, and one-liners fly as furiously as the fists and the bullets.

I'm not sure if I'm in a hurry to play a Spirit of the Century RPG, but I'm definitely up for reading another novel--especially if it's penned by Chuck Wendig.

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