So, just so you know, the chapters in this book aren’t numbered, and some of them are pretty short, so I’m going to be grouping them together if I need to. This particular chapter, “Ready to Dig for Yale?”, is long enough to do an entire post on. And I’ll do my best to outline the chapters I’ll be discussing in each post.
First of all, I sure left off on a cliffhanger. At the end of the last chapter, we learned that before long, Johnson’s family would learn that he had died on the journey. That’s certainly some ominous foreshadowing. But that’s something to deal with later, apparently, because we then follow the students to Chicago!
Now, a quick disclaimer, the book takes place in the late 1800’s, and the views that the white characters have about Native Americans are…unacceptable by 2017 standards. So bear in mind that I’m trying to be as sensitive as possible, but the setting and genre make it a bit difficult.
Okay, so with that out of the way, on to the rest of the story. As Marsh and his students get settled for the day, he assures them that the group won’t run into any trouble with Native Americans, particularly the Sioux and Blackfoot nations, who are currently in conflict. I mean…not to spoil later events, but he’s not technically wrong.
These early chapters of Dragon Teeth serve mostly to set up the tone for later events. Full disclosure, I’m writing this as I’m nearly done reading the book, and looking back on it, the foreshadowing is very clear, but not completely obvious. I would say that this book is worth a second or third read. I honestly got through this book in a couple of days, so I would say it kept my attention and drew me in.
There are two things that happen in this part of the book that I think are vital to the plot. First of all, Johnson doesn’t seem to have much sense. He doesn’t think to maybe…follow Marsh’s directions when it comes to talking about the dig. Johnson just can’t seem to stop talking about the confidential details with anyone who asks. And I understand how he could be suspicious of Marsh’s tendency for secrecy and his habit of never just saying anything outright. Marsh is a pretty eccentric person. But I don’t think that Johnson is doing himself any favors by deliberately disobeying him. He just seems to be poking a bear that he doesn’t need to poke.
Also, we first hear about arguably one of the most important characters in the book: Edward Drinker Cope. Johnson doesn’t meet him face to face here, but Marsh has some strong opinions on the man. Cope is Marsh’s rival in paleontology. Marsh clearly thinks that Cope is a scoundrel. And anyone that even is curious to learn more about Cope is equally so, as Johnson finds out.
Now, there’s a trope that I see over and over again in general, and it is used once in this book, but it is one of the funniest ways to get a point across. It suits an eccentric like Marsh really well, but isn’t overused. TVTropes calls it “Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking” Cope is apparently murdered his father, repeatedly cheats on his wife, and doesn’t bathe as often as he should. That’s just a side note, and something I found amusing.
Overall, I’ve noticed that the book starts a little slow. Johnson is starting to drift out of March’s good graces, leading to the real action in a few more chapters. Still, once the reader gets a good bite out of this book ,they will certainly want to come back for more.