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The Flock    by James Robert Smith order for
by James Robert Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2010 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Flock (soon to be a major motion picture), James Robert Smith stages a mini Jurassic Park in a remote pine forest in 'one of the last unspoiled tracts of land left in Florida'. The land is being fought over by ruthless theme-park developer Michael Irons (head honcho of Berg Borthers Studios), billionaire crackpot environmentalist Vance Holcomb, and an ex-Marine property owner and right wing extremnist, Colonel Winston Grisham, with his own band of mercenaries.

But this time, the dinosaurs (actually a flock of intelligent dinosaur-like birds called Phorusrachids that have survived in small numbers by carefully hiding from humans and moving only at night) are (mostly) good guys, along with young Fish and Wildlife officer Ron Riggs. Ron is called in to advise on the mysterious disappearance of dogs in Berg Borthers' new Salutations development. Though he initially suspects an escaped constrictor, it soon becomes clear that something else is involved.

Early on, readers are introduced to Flock politics, with Egg Mother and Egg Father at the head. After them is Walks Backward (responsible for concealing signs of the birds' passage). Walks Backward has become increasingly concerned about Scarlet who has gone rogue and is risking the Flock by his movement in daytime and preying on humans' dogs. He even considers challenging Egg Father for leadership in order to deal with Scarlet.

Greedy tabloid reporter Tim Dodd follows Ron when he goes into the wilderness, and is almost killed by Scarlet - he manages to get some pictures. In the meantime, Ron bumps into the lovely Kate Kwitney who works for Holcomb and takes him back with her to meet the billionaire. Dodd passes a disk of dino images to Ron before being killed. Though the assassins go after Ron also, his tough ex-lover, full blood Seminole Mary Niccols, arrives in time to save him.

A great deal of violence follows, Grisham's men trying to take out the entire Flock - and anyone who knows about it - while the intelligent birds fight amongst themselves and for survival. Ron and friends simply try to make it out of the area alive, but also hope to protect the Flock. It's a gripping read that makes me look forward to the movie, but also leaves me reluctant to enter any remaining Florida wilderness.

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