One author sits atop the Canadian science fiction scene, with Hugo and Nebula and all sorts of other awards stacked under him in some monstrous pyramid: Robert J. Sawyer. He’s written twenty-some novels and is probably the biggest name in “traditional” science fiction out there, but whatever accomplishments go to his credit, I will always remember him for one book that, to engage in some slight hyperbole, nearly ruined my childhood. Even Gary Jennings, with his historical/pornographic (in equal parts) fiction like Aztec and Raptor didn’t manage to traumatize my elementary school mind in quite the same manner Sawyer did.
Now, the beginnings of all this are fairly innocuous. I saw this book on the shelf at the public library and had the immediate reaction of “a dinosaur with a spyglass? How can this not be awesome?”.
Little did I know what lay within Far-Seer, and the mental scarring that would result. The main problem is, that unlike Jennings, this looked like a Young Adult novel when I picked it up at age eleven, and read like one, too. The world is quite attractive: a planet with intelligent dinosaurs at about a renaissance stage of technological development. Our main character, Afsan, is essentially this world’s Galileo. The plot is both simple and simplistic: our proud scientist uncovers the falsity of this world’s religious beliefs, leading to a battle between rationalists and corrupt priests, all delivered with about the subtlety of a triceratops busting through a wall. I find these kind of rationalism vs. religion conflicts in science fiction quite naive in of themselves, and the Galileo parallel forced. In any case, my young self didn’t take much offense to any of these elements, and I read along for the dinosaur adventure. It was juvenile, but it was fun. No harm done then, right?
Because somewhere in the second half of the novel, Sawyer feels the need for Afsan to have his first sexual experience, and introduces us to the wonderful world of dinosaur sex. This, again, is all fine and good. The problem is that Sawyer presents the scene erotically.
To put this in more concrete terms, since I can only think of this analogy to describe what I can only term the “indescribable horror” of this scene: imagine you are watching a nature documentary. The mating rituals appear and we come to the down-and-dirty. Now, you would expect the filmmakers to depict this act in a detached manner, like any other nature documentary you’ve ever seen. Instead, the directors and editors decide to film these animals in the style of a pornographic film, complete with bad synth music, exaggerated slapping noises, and close-ups.
That, in essence, is how Sawyers writes the dinosaur sex in Far-Seer. Thanks to him, I will forever have the image of Asfan’s ballooning dewlap burned into my skull, or the lady dinosaur flipping up her tail to do it “sauropod-style.”
To dwell any further on the scene itself could lead to gibbering madness. Consider yourself warned.
Perhaps it wouldn’t have been quite so bad if we’d had some advanced warning, but the novel was essentially sexless to this point. I happily made my way through this book and then…
Dinosaur sex. Hot, sweaty dinosaur sex.
And for that, I can never forgive Robert J. Sawyer. No matter what he writes, I will always think of him as the dinosaur sex guy, and shiver at the thought of that goddamn inflating dewlap.
Honestly, Robert: What the hell?