‘Primeval: Extinction Event’ by Dan Abnett

By oldenglishrose - Last updated: Thursday, February 3, 2011 - Save & Share - One Comment

Recently, I’ve been enjoying an excess of Victorianism.  I read The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, a very unexpected Victorian novel, and then, purely by chance, I ended up simultaneously reading Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster and The Crimson Petal and the Whiteby Michael Faber (which is still ongoing), both neo-Victorian novels.  While these are all fabulous books, I felt that I needed a change of pace afterwards, and what could be more different than a book about dinosaurs rampaging down Oxford Street and strange Russian scientists.  I was very kindly sent Primeval: Extinction Event by Dan Abnett from the lovely people at Titan Books and I’m glad I waited until now to read it as it proved the perfect antidote to the overexertion of my Victorian sensibilities.

Primeval: Exinction Event is a book based on the popular ITV television series of the same name about anomalies in time that occur, allowing beasts from prehistoric (and apparently also futuristic) times to slip through into the present day and cause havoc.  In this particular installment, following an encounter with an entelodon on Oxford Street, Professor Nick Cutter, paleozoologist for the Anomaly Research Centre, is kidnapped along with his teammates zookeeper Abby and computer whizz Connor.  They are taken to Siberia where they discover that the Russians have a much bigger problem than they do in England, in the form of a forest full of dinosaurs and the terrifying Baba Yaga.  Somehow they must convince the Russians of what is happening and keep themselves alive long enough to sort it out and get home safely, all while time is swiftly running out.

Unlike a lot of people in the UK (including my parents, who were very intrigued when I showed them this book) I have never seen Primeval before; I think it aired while I was at university and without a television, so I never got around to watching it.  Consequently, I came to this book without any prior knowledge of the characters or their situation which isn’t something that I expect will happen with many readers as television spin-off books aren’t something you tend to pick up unless you’ve already watched and enjoyed the series.  However, had I taken that view, I would have missed out on what turned out to be a really good, fun piece of light entertainment.

Primeval: Extinction Event is a lively, fast-paced adventure which easily carries the reader along through a series of unlikely occurrences and their equally unlikely situations.  The book reads exactly how you would expect a television episode to read if it were turned into a book, alternating between action scenes and lots of dialogue.  Abnett writes these conversations in a way that is snappy, witty and that manages to convey large amounts of information without it seeming contrived or intrusive.  I was impressed that the author managed to provide enough detail and backstory for me, a newbie, to be able to grasp what was going on and why without it being painfully obvious that he was doing so.  There were a few small things which I found confusing at first (like the Russians in the book, I also thought that the term ‘anomaly’ referred to the dinosaurs themselves) but as the plot moves so quickly these misunderstandings were soon cleared up.

As this book assumes that readers will already be familiar with the characters from the television series, characterisation is understandably a bit sparse (I wouldn’t expect character studies if I were to read a Doctor Who novel, for example), but this isn’t the sort of novel in which you would expect it anyway, focusing as it does on action over contemplation.  Nonetheless, there was enough differentiation between them for me to feel that I got to know the main cast a little bit and to make them interesting to read about.  I found the inclusion of Cutter’s wife particularly intriguing as I know no back story for it, and I’d like to find out more about what happened with the two of them.  I do think that there were a few too many secondary characters though, many of which were little more than names and so impossible to keep track of.  I can see how this would work on television as you can actually see the characters and they are visibly different, but it didn’t translate well into book form.

My only other criticism is a rather minor one, but it was a constant niggle throughout the book: every time a weapon is mentioned, we must know what model it is.  I fail to see why this is necessary or how it adds to the reading experience.  I highly doubt that the average reader will be able to visualise a specific gun by being given its model number; on television, all we would have seen is an array of different guns and I could quite happily have been told that the team use an array of different guns without knowing what every single one of them was.  I quickly grasped that mechanical things wouldn’t work properly because of the anomalies without knowing the difference between and M-64 and an A-30.  Frankly they all sound like road names to me anyway.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to someone who hasn’t seen the television show.  What I would recommend is that you sit down and watch the show and then read this book.  That’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Primeval: Extinction Event by Dan Abnett.  Published by Titan Books, 2011, pp. 351.  Review copy.

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Time February 3, 2011 at 9:16 pm

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Primeval ARCadians, Katie Stevens. Katie Stevens said: New post: ‘Primeval: Extinction Event’ by Dan Abnett http://oldenglishrose.dmi.me.uk/2011/01/24/primeval-extinction-event/ [...]

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