Full disclosure up front: I edited this book, so I may be biased on quality—although that’s not really what Reads 4 Tweens is about, and therefore I think it’s fine to review books I’ve edited.
Beyond Dinocalypse picks up where Dinocalypse Now drops off—if you haven’t read the first one, you won’t fully appreciate this one. It assumes a knowledge of the characters as presented in the first book. It’s definitely a darker book, although the trademark humor is there. It takes place in the year 2000 after the dinosaurs have won and taken back the planet. Sally and Mack are there, older, sadder, working on wiser, and trying to figure out how best to deal with their failure to save the world. It’s still full of psychosaurs and talking apes and jetpacks, and lots of witty dialogue and action. If your kid loved the first one, there’s no reason they won’t love this one.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
The psychosaurs have expanded their powers so they can now cause people’s bodies to do things. They use humans as mind controlled slaves. This isn’t brainwashing—it’s not like the humans are convinced they want to do it. Their bodies just go on autopilot and their minds are trapped inside.
Violence and Death
Lots of punching dinosaurs and the like—mostly rated PG, although it can get pretty vicious. A few minor characters die, some a bit suddenly.
Der Blitzmann is a villain who loves lightning. We get his backstory, which includes him envying his parents who died in a fire after lightning struck their house. He’s a bit broken—his only goal is to become one with the lightning and allow everyone else to do the same. Benjamin Hu gives him a chance to do that, knowing it will kill Der Blitzmann. Zap.
Sally tortures several of the villains. It makes the other Centurions uncomfortable—this isn’t what they do. They’re supposed to be above that. But time, situation, and manipulation have made Sally much darker, much more willing to do anything to achieve her goals.
Being a Hero
What does it mean to be a hero? What must you be willing to sacrifice? Who will you ally with, and does that change whether or not you’re heroic? These questions are a running theme, explored in ways that most younger readers (in this case, maybe 10 and up) should be able to follow pretty easily.
Love and Romance
Mack Silver likes to flirt. A lot. Usually not well. He’s typically shrugged off as annoying—it’s not seen as cute or “boys will be boys,” although he’s not fully called to the carpet for it, either. It’s just one of his many character flaws.
Mack and Sally are married, but it’s been a long 60 or so years. Their relationship is on the rocks through much of the book, and there’s some reflection about where things went wrong. In the end, they do patch things up, and if you read between the lines, you can tell there was makeup sex. It’s just hinted at, though, and they are married.
Jet is still in love with Sally, and Sally remembers the feelings she had for him. She loved both him and Mack, and now Jet kind of represents the innocence she’s lost after the war against the dinosaurs went so poorly. She kisses Jet a few times. He’s torn about how he feels, especially since she and Mack are married but on the rocks.
Benjamin has a sweet time-twisted romance with a woman he rescues. He visits her in her room one night, and it seems like it’s not his first time there. All we see them do is talk, though.
Sexist Stereotypes (or lack thereof)
Sure, Mack flirts with every woman and has some sexist things to say, but no one around him thinks this is particularly ok. Sally is called “little girl,” but it’s by a character who has condescending nicknames for everyone.
Overall, women are portrayed well. Sally is a strong and deeply flawed character. Amelia kicks ass and has no time for metaphors or feelings. There are a lot of other women as minor characters who are viewed as equals, not as goddesses on a pedestal or second class beings.
There’s some mild language (damn, probably hell and ass—I have to admit, I hardly notice those words any more) but nothing you wouldn’t hear in a PG rated movie.
Mack is a drunk when the book opens. He’s dismissed as useless and washed up. He eventually gets himself sober, though, on his own. Sally starts out as a casual drinker, but she drinks more and more as the book progresses—it reflects her crumbling sense of self. She cleans herself up in the end, too. The other characters never take more than a sip of anything.
Truth & Illusion
There’s a bonus short story! It’s about a romance, and there’s the implication that the characters have had sex, but it’s all between the lines. There’s some mild violence, but hardly worth mentioning. Mostly, it’s a story of hope through decades of disaster.
This book can be enjoyed on many levels—on the surface, it’s a cracking adventure story with witty dialogue. But if you pay even a little attention, there’s a fairly complex exploration of what it means to be a hero and several stories of redemption.
I think this is appropriate for ages 10 and up. It isn’t aimed at middle grade readers and the vocabulary isn’t dumbed down, but with short chapters and non-stop action, I think most kids won’t have much trouble with it. Again, you first need to read Dinocalypse Now. Anyone who liked that one will definitely want to pick up this one as well.
Beyond Dinocalypse by Chuck Wendig
Published in 2013 by Evil Hat Productions
Second in a trilogy (with Dinocalypse Now and Dinocalypse Forever) and part of the Spirit of the Century series that includes King Khan
Read as a PDF and, uh, while I was editing it.