While spoilers are the equivalent of Satan for many book readers, there is one thing that should be given away regarding Tyrannosaur Canyon. Based on the quote from a review on the outside of the back of the cover that says “better than Crichton” and the picture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton head on the front, readers may be lead to believe that this book contains dinosaurs. There are no (living) dinosaurs in this book. This is still a good book, but it is not a dinosaur book in the sense of literal dinosaurs. There are no T-rexes tearing down fences or velociraptors turning door handles here. Some minor sci-fi elements do come into play in this story, but it is more of a mystery novel than anything else.
The synopsis of this book lists a series of seemingly unconnected events that of course all come together in the end because that is what mystery novels do. Having more than one plotline is great, but in this book it almost seemed like a bit much. The bit of the synopsis that says “a dark agency with a deadly mission” felt like overkill. There was already plenty of action with a good cast of characters by the time this plotline was introduced. All of the other major characters and parts of the story had already been introduced by the time this part of the synopsis shows up in the actual book. Instead of having this second group of antagonists introduced only to more or less replace the first group as the primary bad guys of the book, Douglas Preston could have just keep group A as the only villains. Ultimately the book does work, but it felt like Preston really squeezed that last plot into the story to fill space or for whatever other reason.
Tyrannosaur Canyon is not terribly comparable to Jurassic Park, but the sci-fi element of the story is reminiscent of Crichton’s work. This was not sci-fi in the sense of laser guns, alien intervention in human history, or other grandiose ideas. The alterations to science were much more subtle than that, which was a theme with much of Crichton’s writing. The “fiction” part of the science fiction was a stretch of actual, real world sciences as opposed to completely made up science and/or technology. That type of approach on science fiction allows Tyrannosaur Canyon to work some actual science into itself as well. We see scientist characters using actual equipment instead of made up words that sound science-y and there were neat little blurbs between each section of the book that showed the Tyrannosaurus Rex (depicted as a skeleton on the front cover) before her death and the beginning of the fossilization process.
Overall this is a good mystery novel, especially if you want just a touch of sci-fi to go along with the elements of a thriller. Another fun element to note is Preston’s attention to details in the fields this book deals with. There is information about the different layers of the Earth’s crust that are most commonly searched for fossils and there are descriptions of the firearms (i.e. make and caliber) being used by characters. Some other writers would just say the characters are “digging through rock” or that someone pulled “a pistol” without specifying what kind, but getting that extra little bit of descriptive detail gives this book a few extra points. When taking the science and some other details into account, do keep in mind that this book was released in 2005 and a lot of new information has entered those fields since then. But beyond those particular ravages of time, this book holds up and is a good mystery read.