Eric Garcia’s *Dinosaur Mafia* series

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Eric Garcia’s Dinosaur Mafia is the first detective series I’ve really gotten into in a while. Garcia delivers competent world-building combined with an engaging narrator, and each book so far functions as an accessible stand alone. <3 That being said, I wasn’t impressed enough that I, personally, would buy a copy — I got these as gifts, read them while on Vicodin after some oral surgery, and plan on passing them along to a friend in the next few days. Anonymous Rex, Casual Rex, and Hot and Sweaty Rex were fun, but not keepers.

The basic premise is that dinosaurs never died out. Oh, they shrank a little, they got a little less fierce, but they’re definitely still around. In fact, they live among us, camouflaging themselves using complicated guises so that we humans have no idea they’re around. They faked the fossil record* so we don’t suspect we share the planet with another intelligent species. Regionally, they are governed by a fairly aggressive series of Councils that handles in-group conflict, and makes sure no dino spills the beans on their continued existence.

This series is narrated by Vincent Rubio, a PI with an herb problem (basil sends him over the wall and he has a hard time knowing his limits). Rubio’s got a lot of problems with the ladies, including a cult leader he falls in love with, a mafia maven he left at the bus station when she was a teen, and a human lady with whom he feels a forbidden attraction. He’s also got a problem with debt. Like some bloggers I know ::blushes:: Rubio’s got a love affair with Armani, Macy’s, and sales of all kinds. In fact, he’s been thinking of joining Debtors Anonymous after he’s done with Herboholics Anonymous. I think Rubio’s dandyness subverts some of the problematic gender tropes associated with this genre, particularly since he’s not the most macho of dinos. Plus, while this “feels” like noir because of its content — hardboiled detective, references to sexy dames, etc — Rubio’s voice is more BUH?? then anything else. The tone’s quirky, but not over the top, and the plot is together enough so that the plot holes don’t necessarily sink you.

That being said… I have some issues with the three I’ve read so far.

1. Dinosaurs can’t interbreed with other types of dinosaurs. Okay, fine…  I totally tried to look that up, but apparently The History Channel hasn’t done a special on dino cross breeding. Still, though, I was left a bit WTF over this because of the following points.

Point A: If different species of cats can interbreed (like lions and tigers), then why can’t dinosaurs, if they’re part of the same genus? Even if they CAN’T in real life, I’m pretty sure they don’t secretly live amongst us… so why build the impossibility of miscegenation into the fabric of dino society?  Why make inter-species love a social taboo?

Point B: Why is there an extended plot centering on miscegenation? Okay, MAYBE Garcia’s trying to parody that trend in noir, where it turns out that the dramatic secret is that such-and-so character has  a black baby or some stupid ish, but seriously, this storyline features a horrific monster dinosaur hybrid, and extended reflections on the dangers of dino-human lust. What the fuck is THAT about? There was not enough Vicodin in the world to make that make sense.

2. The triteness of the female characters. So far, there’ve been at least one or two major female characters in all three books. Good, I guess? So far, one’s been a deluded cult leader/love interest, the tomboy friend with a secret, a baby-obsessed singing diva, a frigid socialite, a drugged up hooker, and a betrayed high school sweetheart. Oh, wait, I just listed them all and they all have suspect motives. Huh. Anyways, what I’m saying is that Vincent pretty much lives in a boys’ world, where women are forgettable secretaries or genre archetypes intent on fucking up the virtuous main character’s shit. Remember how I was annoyed that in the Master Li series, everything’s a parody except that women really AREN’T agents in their own right? That’s how this felt — like all the tropes of a good detective story were getting activated and critiqued… but seriously, women characters always have a secret and they ALWAYS can’t be trusted.

3. Trope alert! A national/international Council managing the affairs of the unknown creatures that live among us? NO WAY!! Fortunately, it’s subverted by the structure of the emergency Council sessions, which may involve naked dinos throwing down. Unfortunately, since Garcia’s admitted in another interview that he didn’t really think through the implications of the dinos forging the fossil record and the implications of that re: fossil fuels, I’m thinking that some details of the dino world (like the Council) haven’t been fleshed out. That’s a techne issue, I think, particularly since Garcia admits to having written the books pretty fast.

Comments

  1. Lyr says

    A better dinosaur series is the Quintaglio ascension trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer (Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter, and Foreigner). Much better characterization of both males and females, along with an absolutely wonderful storyline. I highly recommend these books — just make sure you read them in order.

  2. Mel says

    Cats (and equids, and some other animals) are kind of unusual–most of the time, just being in the same genus doesn’t make interbreeding possible–there can be genetic, physical, and behavioral barriers to reproduction, and even when it’s possible, the offspring is often sterile and may have other health problems (ligers and tiglons certainly do, and male tiglons are sterile, so you can’t really have a self-sustaining population of tiglons, for example).

    As far as dinosaurs go, I’ve heard of some intragenus lizard hybrids (Galapagos iguanas, and they definitely end up in a weird “social” limbo between the fairly social-for-a-reptile marine iguanas and the not-very social land iguanas), with basically a straightforward mixture of traits, but I’m not sure how fertile they are. Ducks hybridize pretty frequently, again not sure about fertility. So some dinosaurs might be able to hybridize, but I wouldn’t necessarily bet on it, although it seems like if they did, they probably wouldn’t be prone to the health problems mammalian hybrids often have. Since we don’t know much about dinosaur behavior or genetics, your guess is as good as mine.

    By contrast, the genetic and physical differences between human races is far far far smaller than even the difference between subspecies, and we generally don’t have behavioral differences so great we can’t recognize an interest in sex from people of different races. It’s not remotely comparable to cross-species, same-genus hybrids.

    Sounds like a really skeezy premise.

  3. says

    Pffff, dinosaurs in suits. I would buy an action figure of a velociraptor in a trenchoat and fedora. “She was a pushy iguanadon, but most iguanadons are…”

    Re: hybridization, that would be interesting to see if the taboo is founded in science; I don’t know about reptilian/avian interbreeding, but I know that even though it’s very possible in mammals (horse/donkey hybrids, horse/zebra hybrids, dog/coyote/wolf/fox hybrids, etc.), there’s usually some kind of deterioration (whether in terms of sterility or behaviorial/psychological breakdown, or even genetic breakdown and increased handicap-inducing disorders or fatality). And some species, like humans, are genetically incapable of being fertilized with non-human sperm.

    Just the fact that there would be unpredictable genetic/psychological consequences should be enough if the whole issue ends up being addressed. The aversion could just be with a cultural disgust against bestiality, and be more poking fun at “sexy aliens” a la Star Trek than “ZOMG BLACK BABY.” And to be fair, in the not-so-distant past, interracial relationships were considered at the level of or just above bestiality, and there was “scientific evidence” to support that “fact.” Uh, if this world is that fleshed out to be parodying historical social structures, that is. Which… if the female roles are any indication, would be a big “no.”

    Also, Galapagos iguanas are ugly as sin, and actually beat out (narrowly) the Yunnan Snub-Nosed Monkey in my DO NOT WANT book.

  4. Belial says

    Were all the dinosaurs dromaesaurids or something? Otherwise, “Dinosaur” isn’t a genus, it’s a whole broad category of animals. Like saying that it feels weird that a cat and a bear can’t interbreed just because they’re both mammals. Or a hawk and a goose(considering that birds are just a subcategory of dinosaur, even more apt).

    I mean, you’re probably still right about the way it was written about in the story, I’m just saying, there’s nothing particularly weird about the dinosaurs being unable to interbreed unless they all happened to be from a few very closely related species.

    • Maria says

      That was the other thing that confused me — I think at one point (remember, I was high on Vicodin) the narrator mentioned they were all in the same genus, and that that’s why they could all interpret each other’s scents and understand each other’s body language cues, and why in his callow youth, he’d hooked up with some other kinds of dino. Just… NO BABIES!!!

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