This lost novella by the century's most renowned paleontologist has been called the greatest time-travel story in more than one hundred years.
Vanishing from Earth on February 30, 2162, while working on a problem of quantum theory, research chronologist Sam Magruder is thrown back 80 million years in time. Endowed with the intelligence of a twenty-second-century man, Magruder struggles to survive, feeding on scrambled turtle eggs and diligently recording his observations on a stone-slab diary, even as menacing tyrannosaurus try to gnaw off his limbs.
Filled with magnificent descriptions of the dinosaurs as only Simpson himself could render them, The Dechronization of Sam Magruder is not only a classic time-travel tale but a philosophical work that astutely ponders the complexities of human existence and achievement.
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George Gaylord Simpson, widely regarded as the greatest vertebrate paleontologist of the twentieth century, was a professor at Harvard University. He died in 1984.
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."
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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