Here we finally get to what we came here for: dinosaur bones. Cope has his students assist him in excavating dinosaur bones in a cliff face. The students don’t see the bones at first, but eventually (not as fast as Cope would prefer), they see where the landscape ends and where the fossils begin.
Here the reader can find more details about Cope and Marsh’s rivalry. Honestly, this is one of the times when I wish that Crichton had published this when he was still alive. I think that Marsh and Cope could have their own book. That is something that I feel is one of Crichton’s biggest strengths as a writer. His characters are incredibly interesting, even characters that aren’t necessarily that important to the story. Marsh is surprisingly absent, but we still know a lot about him. Even characters that only appear for a couple of chapters don’t feel temporary. I appreciate the attention to detail.
Now, another thing that I appreciate is that Cope understands how fragile the fossils are. The book takes place in 1876, a time that people were sometimes less careful about preserving specimens. I remember learning in an art history class that sometimes people around this time would go into some ruins and just…break stuff to take as souvenirs. I would expect Cope and Stevenson to be aware of how to correctly handle the bones. The students would at least be willing to listen to Cope. However, I was fully expecting Johnson to break something. He almost does, but Cope keeps a good eye on him. I can’t help but wonder why Cope was having his photographer digging with the students, given that he wasn’t knowledgeable in the subject, and wasn’t available to take the pictures that he needed to take. In fact, after Johnson uncovers the titular teeth, Cope seems to be scolding him for not having his camera ready. While Cope seems like a knowledgeable scientist, he doesn’t seem like a very effective leader.
Something really interesting that Crichton touches on occasionally is Cope and Marsh’s attitudes towards evolution and Charles Darwin. I think it’s interesting that Cope believes in evolution, but doesn’t necessarily call himself a Darwinist. On the other hand, Marsh is more openly a supporter of Charles Darwin. From here on, there’s a subtle discussion about science and religion. How do those two concepts interact? I personally think that there’s a place for both. Some people think they are completely incompatible. Crichton seems to have his own stance, but isn’t overly preachy. I enjoy that there’s just enough in the book to whet my philosophical appetite, but not enough to make me think that Crichton is trying to influence me into adopting his point of view.
Now, I’ve said that this book starts off pretty slow. This is the point where things really start to speed up. Now, I don’t think that one could really get as good an experience with the book if they skip the beginning. However, at this point there is a huge change of focus, and the book becomes much more engaging.