Rivers of Time by L. Sprague de Camp (1993)

RiversofTimeCover blurb

HAVE GUN, WILL TIME TRAVEL

Time travel came along just in time to save Reginald Rivers’ livelihood: guiding safaris hunting big game. There is no longer any big game surviving outside of preserves, but in the world millions of years past, from the Paleocene to the Pleistocene, bigger game than any in the modern world was available in abundance. Anyone who could pay Rivers’ considerable fee could hunt the dinosaur of his or her choice. And, high as it is, Rivers sometimes thinks his fee too low considering the headaches he gets from his clients.

Among his motley crew of time voyagers are fundamentalists determined to prove that evolution is a fraud, a stowaway animal rights fanatic who doesn’t care that the animals that Rivers shoots have been extinct for millions of years, a pair of scientists keen to watch the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs, and a woman intent on bedding every member of the safari, including her ex-husband. Tyrannosaurus rex is a mere inconvenience compared to this assortment of Homo sapiens…

My thoughts

This anthology starts off with a classic of the genre, “A Gun for Dinosaur,” which may be second only to Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” when it comes to short stories featuring dinosaurs. The story is about a safari to the distant past that goes terribly wrong, as explained by Rivers to a client who demands why the guide insists that only men of a certain size be allowed to hunt dinosaurs. It is actually quite funny, and it sets the tone for the rest of the stories, which are narrated by Rivers.

The above blurb explains what kind encounters Rivers has on his travels. More often than not, the stories serve as vehicles for De Camp to make none-to-subtle political statements, although given the light-hearted nature of the tales, it never comes across as heavy handed. None of the stories are quite as good as “A Gun for Dinosaur,” but they’re all entertaining and the book is worth owning.

Rivers of Time isn’t just set in the Mesozoic Era. Rivers travels across much of Earth’s history in his adventures, meeting mastodons and other non-dinosaurs along the way. The stories are well researched. Only a “Gun for Dinosaur,” first published in 1956, feels a little dated.

Stories

  • “Faunas” (poem)
  • “A Gun for Dinosaur”
  • “The Cayuse”
  • “Crocamander Quest”
  • “Miocene Romance”
  • “The Synthetic Barbarian”
  • “The Satanic Illusion”
  • “The Big Splash”
  • “The Mislaid Mastodon”
  • “The Honeymoon Dragon”
  • Afterword by author

Trivia

  • Rivers of Time has its own entry on Wikipedia, which reports that a tenth Reginald Rivers story was written by author Chris Bunch.

Reviews

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