This is the last Crichton novel that is likely to be release posthumously. The short version is that its a western where the treasure the characters first look for then seek to control are Dinosaur Fossils. However the long version is this, a young man at Yale makes a bet with a rival to go with professor Othaniel Marsh to Wyoming, he is abandoned and hooks up with Marsh's rival Edward Drinker Cope. What follows is an adventure that leads to a immature Yale student turning into a strong and mature individual in a trial of endurance, hardship, and on more than one occasion after being stuck in Deadwood, a Gunfight. When this young man returns he is completely unrecognizable from the boy he was.
Now these men Othaniel Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope were real people, so were Wyatt Earp and several other historical figures encountered. Othaniel Marsh and Cope really did have an intense rivalry in these years, the discovery of fossils in the west lead to the bone wars, where they tried to outdo and sabatoge one another and on several occasions (deliberately toned down in the book) the members of the expeditions did try to shoot the other to death. Crichton also very much did the research on the various Plains Indian tribes and accurately portrayed and it is obvious that like anyone with a heart nowadays, he felt a lot sympathy for them and sadness at what we did to them.
Now this book was written early in his career, his wife dated the inspiration back to some correspondence with a paleontologist back in '71 this book was written not just before Jurassic Park
but before even Congo
Jurassic Park and Congo being some of the absolute best adventure novels ever written. I was rather sad at the ending of the book knowing that it was his last we will ever read. There was an extra layer of poignancy added to that due to the fact that the book is a coming of age story but I will say this, as a writer myself, this was a good book to go out with. It wasn't his best, it wasn't his deepest work. However it was a fun and well researched and at times funny adventure and I'm not sure there is any better way to be remembered as an author than someone who brought a smile to your face and gave you a great adventure.