Eric Garcia – Casual Rex

Entertaining but not spectacular follow-up to his debut novel Anonymous Rex. It takes place before the events in the first book, so we get to see Vincent Rubio and Ernie Watson working a case together. A case involving a suspicious cult called the “Progressives,” which encourages dinosaurs to embrace their primitive side, throw off millennia of human oppression, and return to their ancestral roots. (Oh yeah, in case you didn’t know, the Rex series is set in a world where dinosaurs still exist, but wear human suits to make the monkeys think they’re still extinct. It’s a science fiction/detective crossover, or “Dino Noir” as the cover blurb puts it.) Ernie’s ex-wife’s brother has been absorbed by the cult. Ernie and Vincent extract him and get him deprogrammed, only to find him dead a few days later. There was a suicide note, but did he really kill himself?

The story is interesting, and provides another glimpse into dinosaur life, but it lacks the sparkle of surprise that Anonymous Rex had. Although at first glance the dinosaur world plays a bigger role in this book than in the first one, the story plays out much more like a simple detective story with funny masks. While riffing on the (flashy, cinematic) superficial differences between the species, Garcia has neglected the more subtle aspects that Anonymous Rex played to: the furtive need for secrecy, the ingrained mores and taboos of such a parallel society, and the cognitive dissonance of knowing that dinosaurs still walk the earth…in business suits.