Primeval has been one of the biggest successes in the revival of British television science fiction pioneered by Russell T. Davies’ revamp of Doctor Who. The series is about a group of dinosaur hunters dealing with creatures that appear in the present day from the past and future through rifts in time (“anomalies” in Primeval-speak). It recently began a third season on the ITV network with one of the most hyped premieres on British TV.

The popularity of Primeval is evidenced by the prime-time Saturday evening time slot in which it airs. Moreover, the series has spawned a series of tie-in novels that have been published by British-based Titan Books. The most recent of these is Primeval: The Lost Island by Paul Kearney, which came out in hardback in November last year.

Primeval: The Lost Island is set during the series’ second season. It features all of the show’s regular characters from that period, including the Scottish leader of the group, Professor Nick Cutter (played in the series by Douglas Henshall), research and technology expert Connor Temple (Andrew-Lee Potts), technician and tough guy Stephen Hart (James Murray), herpetologist Abby Maitland (Hannah Spearritt) and the team’s government contact James Lester (Ben Miller). The book’s author, Paul Kearney, is best known as a writer of fantasy fiction, having penned the series The Monarchies of God and The Sea Beggers.

Kearney’s take on Primeval is more adult that the series, which is pitched as the same broad age range as Doctor Who. The dialogue in The Lost Island includes some strong language and the dinosaur encounters result in a moderate degree of gore (Kearney has said on his website that the book is aimed at mid-teens). Otherwise, though, The Lost Island recreates the spirit of adventure that was once found in British action comics and is typical of the television series.

The plot of Primeval: The Lost Island focuses on the team’s efforts to control a dinosaur incursion on and around a small unoccupied island off the coast of Ireland. Various prehistoric creatures arrive on the island through numerous anomalies. Some also appear in the surrounding ocean, including a pliosaur that sinks a fishing boat in the book’s dramatic opening chapter. Cutter’s team needs to kill the dinosaurs and keep them out of the newspapers. Aided by the S.A.S. they battle a raging storm on their way to the island, whereupon they are attacked by hungry predators. To complicate matters, the Irish and the French get involved because they are in dispute over the sovereignty of the island. This makes it more difficult for Lester to keep the story off the front pages.

As the title and plot may suggest, The Lost Island has much in common with several well known adventure stories featuring dinosaurs. The concept of an island of prehistoric beasts surrounded by sheer cliffs harks back to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land that Time Forgot and the there are echoes of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World in the isolated location and the idea of a plateau setting. The appearance of raptors later in the book is reminiscent of Jurassic Park and one particular passage – in which the raptors attack Cutter’s party in an expanse of ferns – is similar to a splendid scene in The Lost World: Jurassic Park in which raptors concealed by tall grass pick off a party of dinosaur trackers.

Another criticism that could be made of the plot of Primeval: The Lost Island is that it lacks depth. For example, the the disputed sovereignty of the island is never fully justified and the political complications this creates for Lester are ultimately resolved rather easily. Superficial plotting tends to be characteristic of TV tie-ins, though. Publishers presumably prefer that authors keep it simple to make these books appeal to readers of ages.

Despite its weaknesses, Primeval: The Lost World is still an entertaining novel. The story begins with a bang and  thereafter the action barely lets up. Furthermore, Kearney’s writing style is clear, uncluttered and effective in its descriptiveness. He also does a good job of bringing out the on-screen personas of the television series’ main characters. The focus on action-adventure and the abundance of dinosaur encounters should satisfy fans of Primeval in Kearney’s target readership. Anyone else who enjoys the show is likely to find this book an agreeable distraction.

Michael Simpson is the Associate Editor of the Vancouver-based film and TV website CinemaSpy and a freelance writer on a wide range of topics (CinemaSpy; Home).

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