The Dechronization of Sam Macgruder

George Gaylord Simpson, Author, Stephen Jay Gould, Foreword by, Arthur Charles Clarke, Introduction by St. Martin's Press $17.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-13963-6
This intelligent, if conventional time-travel yarn, which was found by the daughter of the eminent paleontologist Simpson (d. 1984), shows some of the crusty wit of his idiosyncratic autobiography, Concessions to the Improbable. Simpson tells the tale of Sam Magruder, a 22nd-century scientist who slips back to the late Cretaceous period. In this ``Crusoe of the Cretaceous,'' as Clarke dubs it in his appreciative introduction, Magruder's struggle to maintain his mental composure in utter isolation is as important as his struggle for survival among the saurians. In the manner of H.G. Wells's Time Machine, the tale is framed by present-day (in this case, 22nd-century) interlocutors, who try to make sense of Magruder's record, which has been found by a geologist. Simpson uses the story to advance his preferred hypotheses about dinosaurs, most notably that they were cold-blooded and slow (a vision that has come under increasing attack since the 1960s, according to Gould's afterword), but he doesn't sacrifice storytelling to pedantry. When Magruder is shocked at the gleaming white teeth of a T-rex--he'd previously known only fossil-brown--the thought is shocking to the reader, too. The end, which involves an epiphany Sam has when trapping small, shrew-like mammals for their fur, is comic and oddly moving at once: he realizes, with a sense of both awe and the ridiculous, that the creature is his ``Great-grandpa.'' (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1996
Release date: 01/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
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