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"In her own brain the raptor identifies herself with the symbols she learned as a chick: me... raptor... red. We can call her Raptor Red, because that's how she labels herself in her own mental imagery."
Raptor Red is the story of a young female Utahraptor by paleontologist Robert T. Bakker, who served as one of the fact-checkers for the film version of Jurassic Park. It was written as a sort of companion novel to his non-fiction book The Dinosaur Heresies, in which he exposed his then-revolutionary ideas about dinosaurs being a little more active and birdlike than the popular imagination's vision of them as big, stupid lizards. It's written as a kind of nature documentary that allows some insight into the animals' thoughts.
Raptor Red and her kin may or may not be sapient, but they definitely aren't human; they're much more olfactory creatures, and communicate in birdlike calls and gestures. Even Raptor Red's "name" is a Translation Convention - she attaches the concepts of "raptor" and "red" (for her species' red snout-markings, as opposed to the yellow snouts of a rival Utahraptor species) to her concept of "myself". The other major characters are either 'named' in relation to Raptor Red or by their species, like with the ancient white dactyl who considers Raptor Red's pack as the moving centre of his territory.
The novel follows an eventful year in Raptor Red's life; the times are changing (the book takes place around the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary) and various dinosaurs are on the move, among them Raptor Red and her mate, who have come to what will one day be Utah from what will one day be Asia via land bridge. He dies in a hunting accident in the first chapter; not long after, Raptor Red reunites with her sister and finds that her sister has three chicks. Since the chicks are "half of half of me", Raptor Red forms a two-raptor pack with her sister to help raise the offspring. The ensuing adventures include famine, flood, a dashing young male attempting to court Raptor Red over her sister's protests, menacing Acrocanthosaurs, a very nasty run-in with a whip-tailed sauropod, and lots and lots of random paleontology.
Tropes present in this novel:
- Ape Shall Never Kill Ape - Averted by the Utahraptor. Raptor Red's consort would kill Raptor Red's sister's chicks if it weren't for the fact that Raptor Red would never let him. That, and the fact that either Raptor Red or Raptor Red's sister would probably kill him afterward. Nothing ever actually happens, but there are several close shaves.
- Attack! Attack! Attack! - Raptor Red is fairly calm and methodical, but her sister is best described as manic and slightly nuts, especially when her chicks are in danger. Or even when she just thinks the chicks are in danger. This eventually proves to be her downfall.
- Author Avatar - interestingly enough, the Old Dactyl.
- Babies Ever After
- Badass Family - Well, they are a pack of Utahraptors.
- Beware My Stinger Tail - Gastonia.
- Big Damn Heroes - Raptor Red's consort saving her from a pack of deinonychs, after the whip-tail battle.
- Chick Magnet - Raptor Red's consort.
- Note that this is an Incredibly Lame Pun.
- Cool Old Guy - The white dactyl. He's old even by dactyl standards, and has chosen to spend his golden years dicking around with the land-based predators. He and Raptor Red's clan have a friendly, if distant, relationship.
- Even enters Badass Grandpa territory at one point, saving the chicks from a predator.
- Actually he's just doing it for the fun of it, although it's mentioned he did keep predators away when Raptor Red and her sister were chicks.
- Even enters Badass Grandpa territory at one point, saving the chicks from a predator.
- Curb Stomp Battle - The Utahraptor vs. most of the things they decide to hunt, the whip tail vs. the Utahraptor, the aegi vs. the scorpion, Kronosaurus vs. Acrocanthosaurus, Gastonia vs. almost any predator (unless the Gastonia is weakened and has its abdomen exposed), and the Utahraptor vs. Deinonychus (unless the Utahraptor are already severely weakened).
- Dead Guy, Junior
- A Dog Named "Dog" - Every single character is named like this.
- Eats Babies - All of the predators.
- Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods - One chapter focuses on ammonites and belemnites.
- Frogs and Toads - A frog becomes a minor character in the chapters where the Aegialodon stars. It ends up getting eaten by an ornithomimosaur.
- The Great Flood - Visualized here.
- Hidden Depths - The sliding-with-Troodons scene. "The concepts do not go together."
- Infant Immortality - Averted. One of Raptor Red's sister's chicks dies from illness, and even before this, Raptor Red and her sister seriously consider abandoning the chicks during a famine.
- Killer Rabbit - The tiny furry Aegialodon is a voracious insectivore that can curbstomp a scorpion.
- Mama Bear - Raptor Red's sister.
- The Bernissartia also qualifies.
"She's a fiercely protective croc-mom--she's never hesitated to rush from the water, openmouthed, at any dinosaur or male croc that got too close to her progeny. This threat, accompanied by extravagant splashing, always worked."
- Meet Cute - There's a clearly-defined protocol for when a male raptor and a female raptor meet. The first two times Raptor Red meets her future consort, circumstances force them to break it.
- Most Writers Are Human - At one point the story suddenly swerves into a two-chapter subplot about an insectivorous mammal living beneath the notice of the "earthquake animals", mainly because he's one of humanity's ancestors.
- Never Smile At a Crocodile - A Bernissartia is a minor character.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon - There's a scene in which the normally isolated Utahraptor packs are drawn together by flowers that smell of carrion, during which time a giant red-snout female attempts to woo Raptor Red's consort. Raptor Red takes issue with this, and the consort is more than a little freaked out about the whole thing. When he and Raptor Red make it very clear that she isn't welcome, the giantess sadly leaves; the narration informs us that her size meant she'd been dealing with rejection the whole day.
- Papa Wolf - Raptor Red's consort, and over her sister's chick, no less. He has mixed feelings about his actions: the chick isn't related to him, he gets several cracked ribs out of the deal, and Raptor Red didn't even see him help save her. The event keeps her sister off his back for a while, at least.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse - The baby Gastonia.
- Ptero-Soarer - Averted by the several pterosaur taxa featured.
- Raptor Attack: Averted except for the fact the Utahraptors are scaly.
- Science Marches On - The book came out just before dromaeosaurids like Raptor Red and her kin were confirmed to have feathers. To be fair, it's just about the only birdlike trait the Utahraptors in this book don't have.
- The taxon Ornithodesmus shows up in the book as a pterosaur. Turns out that it was actually a misidentified dromaeosaurid, the first named. The pterosaur material with the fossil has been named Istiodactylus.
- Therizinosaurs are depicted as featherless quadrupeds, and are referred to as "segnosaurs".
- Seldom-Seen Species - Gastonia, Aegialodon, Trinitichelys, Ornithodesmus, Platypterygius, Astrodon, and Bernissartia.
- Shown Their Work - The book is actually rather up to date on most paleontolgy knowledge, with the exception of a lack of feathers on the theropods. But then again the author is a paleontologist.
- Somewhere a Paleontologist Is Crying - More or less completely averted, since the author actually is a paleontologist. If anyone's crying, it's probably because they don't agree with Bakker's views or because Science Has Marched On - the book came out in 1995, and was pretty accurate up to that year.
- There was one flaw, but its only one that someone who really pays attention to paleontology would notice. Utahraptor was from the Barremian stages of the Early Cretaceous. Acrocanthosaurus was from the Aptian and Albian stages of the Early Cretaceous. While most people (with the exception of some incredibly pedant paleontologists) will allow some overlap of dinosaur taxa from neighboring stages due to the patchiness of the fossil record, Acrocanthosaurus rose to prominence after Utahraptor. Thereby making the ending where the Acros were nearly wiped out by plague allowing Utahraptor to dominate the continent temporally inconsistent. If anything, Utahraptor would have been the one to go first.
- Snow Means Death - Raptor Red's sister, and nearly Raptor Red herself.
- Stock Dinosaurs: Pretty much limited to Deinonychus, Iguanodon and arguably Utahraptor. The other dinosaurs are much less familiar - Acrocanthosaurus (a big theropod possibly related to Allosaurus), Astrodon (a smallish by sauropod standards relative of Brachiosaurus), and the ankylosaur Gastonia (which hadn't even been described at the time the book was published).
- Tail Slap: The whip-tail's devastating main weapon.
- Oddly, a female Utahraptor also does this to a rival.
- Translation Convention - The animals in this book have no real language and mostly think in pictures, sounds, and smells. Bakker provides helpful English translations for their thought patterns and communications.
- Turtle Power - One chapter focuses on a Trinitichelys.
- Uncanny Valley - The Yellow Snouts evoke this reaction in Raptor Red.