Robert Silverberg’s Time Tours: The Dinosaur Trackers by Thomas Shadwell (1991)

DinoTrackersCover blurb

In the next century, time travel is a tourist business… a very risky tourist business. Couriers can take travelers into any time they wish. But once there, they’d better not change history. The Time Patrol is watching, and those who meddle with the past may find themselves erased from it!


Time Courier Roy Jones encounters nothing but trouble when he leads a tour back to the Age of Reptiles. First his tourists plan to tame and ride dinosaurs, even though Roy tell them it’s forbidden. Then Roy discovers hunters smuggling dinosaur meat back to the twenty-first century.

If that’s not enough, Mallory Byrne, a nosy reporter, disappears from the group. Roy figures she’s gone alone to observe the most dangerous time of the Age of Reptiles – the moment when a giant asteroid hits the Earth. Roy must get her back before the asteroid crashes… and before the Time Patrol finds out she’s missing!

My thoughts

Roy Jones dreams of being a rodeo champ, but the closest he has come to an actual rodeo is through repeated viewings of mind tapes. (“They were the latest craze, better than video tapes by far,” says our protagonist from the year 2061.) No, he has the much more boring job of tour guide to time travelers. His first assignment? Escort a group die-hard rodeo buffs to the Age of Dinosaurs. Roy doesn’t relish the trip given that as a boy, he saw his father eaten by a T. rex. And his tour group turns out to be a troublesome lot, trying to lasso and ride every dinosaur they come across. Then there is Mallory Byrne, a journalist who wants to see the comet that killed the dinosaurs. When Roy refuses, Mallory disappears, and it is up to the tour guide to get her back.

The Dinosaur Trackers is a young adult novel set in a shared universe created by science fiction author Robert Silverberg. I haven’t read any of the other works in the series, but the gist of it seems to be that time travel is possible but risky given that travelers can change the past. As a result, a special police force called the Time Patrol has been created to prevent history from being altered. Despite the risks, tours of the past are allowed, with the warning that if you interfere with history you will be erased from reality itself. The setting doesn’t make a whole lot of sense: Why permit tours if the past can be changed? And how would you know if history had been altered?

The novel isn’t concerned about these larger questions, instead offering up a light, breezy adventure in a slim 138 pages. The book is okay for what it is. It promises dinosaur action and it largely delivers. Roy, who is the story’s narrator, is a bit annoying, spending much of the book whining about his situation. And the plot relies on too many implausible twists to propel itself forward. But the novel’s short length means it doesn’t linger on its shortcomings, instead moving swiftly from scene to scene. I’m sure my 10-year-old self would have devoured The Dinosaur Trackers, and given that’s its target audience, I guess you can call the book a success.


  • Thomas Shadwell apparently is a pen name for three authors: John Gregory Betancourt (the editor), Arthur Bryan Cover and Tim Sullivan.


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