Here we get to the part of the book where Johnson’s luck begins to run dry. He wakes up to meet the group to get on the train only to find that they left him behind.
I have to really commend Crichton for a little bait and switch that he does. As Johnson has breakfast, the bellboy says that “the professor” wants to join him. Now, what I thought was that Marsh had pulled some kind of trick to scare Johnson out of telling anyone and everyone the confidential plans that he was supposed to be keeping a secret. It took me completely by surprise that it wasn’t professor Marsh. The reader and Johnson were shocked to find that it’s not Marsh but his Rival: Edward Drinker Cope.
Cope is a contradiction of a Quaker. He’s on anexpedition to Montana, just like Marsh’s group. Cope joins Johnson for breakfast and offers him a spot in his own expedition. Johnson doesn’t really have plans for movign forward or going home, so he takes Cope up on his offer. On a side note, Marsh takes molasses with his coffee. I sort of want to try that.
In the next chapter, Johnson meets Cope’s group. Now, this is a completely different collection of people. The first difference I see is that all of the students are named. In Marsh’s group, I don’t really remember any of their names. They were just kind of a semi-anonymous group that Johnson was the only real person of note within. Not so much here, we get a brief introduction to all of the characters.
Annie Cope is Edward Cope’s wife. She seems to be pleasant, but unfortunately she isn’t around for very long. It’s nothing serious, she just gets on the train back home. I think her character had some missed potential. Still, the other characters make for an interesting group.
Sternberg is a bright, if somewhat sickly fossil hunter. Isaac is a fearful student with bad past encounters with Native Americans. Toad is a chubby, curious young man. Morton and Chapman are quieter, and the book seems to forget about them in the long run. If there was another draft of this book, I think that those two may habe been removed from the story.
Now, this is where we see Cope’s biggest flaw: his recklessness. For most of the book, Cope takes very little care in the safety of his expedition. Over and over he is warned on imminent danger, but decides to press on. This becomes more and more terrifying for his charges as their mission progresses.
Now Cope defies the stereotype of a quaker. He’s reckless, argumentative, and even somewhat violent. It takes both Johnson and the reader by surprise. This will defenitely be important later in the novel.
Back to the plot itself, we check back in on Cope’s expidition in Salt Lake City, Utah. One thing that Cope points out is how ugly the Mormon Tabernacle is. Now, that’s a completely subjective statement. I think that it looks alright but I guess that you can judge that for yourself. Also, not to give away too much, but I realize upon reviewing the beginning of the book that there’s a subtle callback to this, suggesting that Cope has a problem with mormons more than theirarchetecture, but I digress.
Now, at this point there’s another thing that the book kind of seems to forget about. Cope runs into some trouble with the law. It seems for a moment that Marsh’s stories about Cope are true after all. Cope manages to start a fight with the sheriff of the town, and his students have to pull him away. And the reader has to wonder: is Marsh a scoundrel, or is Cope a killer?
Now the rest of the section sets the scene for what the students are about to encounter. There’s a description of the conflicts that they are about to insert themselves into. Finally, we meed Cookie, the heavyset chef that they pick up along the way.
And so ends part 1 of Dragon Teeth. One down, two to go.