hi!! welcome to my xenofiction bookclub! i mostly focus on non-human fiction that is told through the lens of animals, but i might occasionally dip into other types of xenofiction. this is a just-for-fun place to post my thoughts on the stuff i read; look around if you like, and enjoy! :)

RAPTOR RED: robert t. bakker (1995)

SUMMARY: a story of prehistoric ecosystems told through the lens of a utahraptor as she tries to make it in the world. raptor red and her sister navigate family complexities, sickness, natural disaster, and more as they travel together across north america in search of somewhere they can make their home. written by robert bakker, famed palaeontologist and consultant on the Jurassic Park movies, who posited that at least some dinosaurs were warm-blooded, and that social groups among dinosaurs were more complex than they are often thought to be.

SPOILER-FREE THOUGHTS: as a huge dinosaur fan and aspiring palaeontologist, i thought this book was a fun read - it takes bakker’s ideas about dinosaur life and social structures, and fleshes out how they would look on an individual level. the characters have a fun way of communicating and thinking, and it’s interesting to read an animal pov story that is less anthropomorphised than others, but still manages to explore social structures and family dynamics. the only downside of a more ‘science-centric’ story is that bakker’s writing style often takes on the tone of a lecturer or researcher, explaining dinosaur anatomy for pages at a time before moving the story forward. i really liked getting to explore the povs of other species outside of red and her family, and bakker does a great job of making you root for the characters to survive and thrive. Seeing red interact with her sister and consort was really cool, and the character of red’s sister was one of my favourites.

SPOILER-ISH THOUGHTS: some of my favourite scenes were those of red and her consort on the beach, playing and exploring together, and taunting the sea monster. i also loved all the white dactyl pov content, and thought it was really cool to see symbiotic relationships explored in that way. some of my least favourite parts were those i mentioned above, where bakker would spend paragraphs at a time explaining the anatomy and behavioural details of every species the protagonists encountered. also, sometimes the writing slipped into being conversational which, while not always a bad thing, i dont think worked for this book as it really broke immersion at times - the phrase ‘darwinian lizzie borden’ comes to mind.

FINAL THOUGHTS: would rate 7/10; if you’re looking for a story with an unusual pov and a plot that makes you root for the characters, this is for you! although it gets a bit in the weeds with palaeo facts at times, raptor red is overall a sweet and engaging story about family and prehistory that makes for some fun escapism.

RATHA'S CREATURE - clare bell (1983)

SUMMARY: the first book in the ‘named’ series, which follows a clan of self-aware, intelligent prehistoric cats, based on a real extinct species of cat. this book follows ratha as she grows up, discovers how complex life outside her home is, and deals with power, family, and complex feelings around her home.

SPOILER-FREE THOUGHTS: i LOVE having a more morally-grey protagonist than i feel we often see in animal-based non-human fiction; ratha is a great pov character and i just love her. i love stories that explore prehistoric species, and basing the clan on real extinct cats is really interesting. the fact that they have a society with laws and pastoralism is SO COOL to me - i love fleshed-out societal worldbuilding, and the clan feels so real to me, because you can guess how characters will react to events pretty well. i also really love how character-driven this book is; watching the characters interact and how complex the relationships become (and how QUICKLY they become complex) is really entertaining.

SPOILER-ISH THOUGHTS:some of my favourite scenes are probably the early stuff, seeing ratha as a young cat and watching how the herding is done, and watching ratha discover her creature and how to care for it. i also love fessran, so i like how much of her we get to see at the beginning of the book. that said, the scenes toward the end of the book are a lot of fun - seeing how much ratha has had to grow and the way she has changed in pretty scary ways is so cool. some of my least favourite parts of the book are probably that the pacing gets a bit weird toward the end, but not overly, and i liked the ramp-up to the action at the end of the story overall. the idea of intelligence as genetic is also a bit dicey, but interesting as a device to explore and challenge our ideas of ‘animal intelligence’. i really love the writing style; it’s to the point and descriptive, and it feels like you really get to see ratha’s mind work, even when she’s being impulsive or irrational. bonechewer’s death was probably the hardest scene for me, and i can’t tell if i like thakur or not yet.

FINAL THOUGHTS: i would recommend this book to anyone, especially those interested in xenofiction and non-human perspectives. it can get dark at times, but if you were a fan of warrior cats or other similar series growing up, this is the more aged-up story for you! i rate ratha’s creature a 9/10 - the only thing i don’t love is the idea of intelligence as genetic, but this is only the first book of the series so i’m interested to see how far the topic gets explored later on.

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