65 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period, a lady dinosaur lays an egg. But before she can return to the tropical nook where she pooped out her hardshelled baby, a meteor hits the Earth and it starts to snow. Lady Dino dies, the last thing on her mind thoughts of her precious, precious egg.
That touching scene is related in the prologue of Leigh Clark’s Carnivore (1997) and that lady dinosaur is literally one of only two female characters in this book. And she’s the likeable one.
Kelly Sawyer is a bio-consultant for the EPA who flies to the mysterious Deepcore Station in Antarctica to find out what they’re up to, and she won’t stop complaining. She complains that the helicopter ride is too rough, that they’re using sled dogs instead of snowmobiles, that the weather is too cold, the ice is too dirty, their drilling techniques are too dangerous, and no one told her how long this job was going to take. She may be a “hot little number” and a “blond babe” but she’s also an enormous pain in the ass. And when she discovers that they’ve discovered a live dinosaur egg, she of course threatens to go to CNN because “this discovery belongs to the world!”
That does not please Valentine Tarosh, the ex-KGB officer heading up the Russian half of this joint Russian/USA drilling partnership...a partnership that wants to turn Antarctica into a secret dumping ground for nuclear waste! “What do you think you’re doing?” Kelly Sawyer explodes. “Who do you think you are?” she exclaims. “I’m going to report you!" she cries. "And not just to the EPA! I’m going to report you to the UN; to the World Court!”
I hate to tell y’all, but she survives to the very last page.
Fortunately, nothing can make the egg hatch faster except radiation. And as Kelly Sawyer points out, the Arctic is shielded from most environmental radiation so there's nothing to worry about, right? RIGHT? Well, it turns out that Tarosh brought some radioactive waste along, just to test different storage techniques, and it’s in the exact same room where the dinosaur egg is sitting, and 18 hours later they have...
“An infant Tyrannosaurus rex, largest and fiercest of the land-based predators of the late Cretaceous. Extinct for sixty-five million years, but now, thanks to the miracle of the ice, alive once more to walk the earth.”
Of course, it’s only six inches tall, but as Kelly Sawyer says when the guys are goofing around with it, “Hey, you shut up, you dickheads! This ain’t no Disneyland show. This thing's a real dinosaur. Show some respect, okay?”
Five seconds later it eats the cook's fingers. Eleven days later, it’s 20 feet tall. Radiation! It's all part of Tarosh’s plan to make himself famous by letting the dinosaur grow to full size, then putting it on an airplane and flying to New York City where he’ll wow the world with his enormous dinosaur. Because no one would be impressed if he came off the plane with a little bitty six-inch tall dinosaur that was 65 million years old.
This plan has a few flaws, the number one flaw being that Antarctica is the angriest place on Earth. Leigh Clark wrote a few horror novels in the late Eighties and Nineties, and today he teaches high school English at James Monroe High School in North Hills, CA so you know he did his research before writing a book set in the coldest place on the planet, and he definitely knows what "katabatic winds" are because he mentions them on every other page. But apart from that he just decided that Antarctica was ANGRY.
When fires break out they burn with “all-consuming fury”. Dogs have “hateful eyes”. The T-rex joins in with the spirit of this land of snow and anger: “He seems to hate planes," one survivor observes. And it’s not just planes. He hates helicopters. He throws an electric fence at Tarosh’s men. He stomps on people. He bites off penises (“The tyrannosaur...lunged straight at Kingsley’s groin, ripping it loose from the rest of its body”).
“And still,” Kelly Sawyer muses. “I find myself bonding with him.”
That’s probably because all the guys at Deepcore Station have names like Troy Darrow and Jack Raines and Clive Mason and Buzz Calhoun and, for a camp that’s low on supplies and is staffed by what we’re told is a skeleton crew, there are a lot of them. And they all keep leaping into the T-rex's mouth like Chiclets.
He chews them with his teeth like “machetes”. He chews them with teeth like “hammered spikes.” He chews them with teeth like “the descending blade of a guillotine”, and with teeth like “sabers”, and with teeth like “steel spikes.” The one thing that his teeth aren’t? Flossed.
In fact, his “curved teeth are clotted with drying blood and rotting flesh.” They’re “crusted with pieces of human flesh along the gumline.” And that’s why his breath is “foul with the odor of half-digested flesh.” It even smells “worse than the breath of killer whales.”
At this point, Tarosh gives the order that they should “Shoot to kill.” But even after his men concentrate their fire on the T-rex’s crotch, that only makes it angrier. Kelly is starting to have doubts about the leadership around here. “I don’t think Tarosh is fit to run this camp,” she confides to one man after Tarosh has shot the camp commander in the back, staged an armed coup, backhanded her across the face, and called her a bitch.
Now, after hundreds of men have been stomped, electrocuted, castrated, eaten like “human jerky” and tossed into the air and swallowed like “dog biscuits” Kelly makes a bold statement, “It may be time to cast scientific knowledge aside and simply destroy the creature.”
But discretion is the better part of valor and so, using a death orgy as cover, Kelly and her boyfriend Cliff Darrow flee into the mountains, hoping to make it to another nearby science base. Taroush unveils Grushka, a secret super evil dog which tracks by “the scent of human fear” and the book takes a digression into animal attack territory as Grushka pursues the hump-buddies over the ice mountains. Then Kelly and the T-rex have a standoff next to the ocean. And that’s when Kelly attacks the T-rex in its one vulnerable place: its heart.
As the great T-rex finishes stomping Kelly’s hump-partner into jam, it approaches her, lowers its head, and...nuzzles.
"You want your head petted, don’t you?" she asked, voice lost in the howling of sudden katabatic winds from the interior.
The tears froze on her cheeks as she shook her head.
"No baby," she said softly. "I can’t do that anymore."
Sensing her rejection, the tyrannosaur withdrew suddenly, uttering a muted roar of pain and resentment.”
Moody and adolescent, the T-rex gives up and floats out to sea on an ice floe, feelings terminally hurt.
“He could probably swim back to shore if he wanted to,” one character observes, sadly, as the T-rex drifts away over the horizon. “But he doesn’t. So he won’t.”