I purchased a digital copy of this book from the publisher.
Dinosaur is a supremely well-constructed work from one of the form’s masters, Adam Lock. Characters Erik and Rebecca only share a handful of the stories that make up this novella-in-flash, but in their brief collision, both their lives are irrevocably changed.
The premise here is intriguing; the story follows each of the two main characters through key moments from their earliest days as their lives and personalities are shaped and revealed by their experiences. By the time they eventually meet, both of them carry scars from their formative years. The logline of the book is ‘No one chooses who to love, only who to be with’, and this sums up both Erik and Rebecca as they navigate their early relationships. When their paths finally cross, both of them are changed as a result of it. On their own, each of them wrestles with growing pains and family trauma; Erik struggles with self-acceptance in the shadow of an absent father, while Rebecca rails against having her worth assigned by her mother. Each makes choices that speak to the elements of their past they long to escape, and the lives they yearn to build for themselves. As they wrestle with partnership and parenthood, they both question what brings them to this moment in time.
Adam Lock is a tremendous talent in short form fiction and he brings his full spectrum of skill to this collection. The thread of tension that runs through the entire book remains super tight throughout, and each story peels away something to create revelationary echoes and layered meaning across the stories before it. There is a sparseness to the prose here that serves only to enhance the emotional resonance, in which Lock is able to select just the right details to make the moment hum. This is exemplified in the story of Rebecca’s honeymoon, which ends with a single simple sentence:
She has been a wife for six days.
The dinosaur appears and reappears in the story as something both literal and metaphorical, doing double duty as a child’s toy and a representation of the passage of time, the things we’ve lost forever, and the relics of the past from which we try and make sense of the present. It’s a subtle yet clever approach that develops a richer meaning through subsequent reads.
Adam does a standout job of creating an entire narrative around two people whose lives are not combined for a significant portion of the book. The back and forth between characters builds a sense of their connection well before it actually happens, and there is some exceptional craft on display as the threads are carefully woven together. The story echoes beautifully at the end as history gently repeats, bringing a bittersweet beauty to the choices being made, and the roads that remain untravelled. This is a moment of realisation for the reader which immediately inspires a return to the beginning, in search of the new meaning made apparent.
Dinosaur is a character study of how the past can echo, and its determining influence on the present. Adam Lock brings two people to flawed, complex life in realistic and relatable circumstances, and finds the defining moments in their everydays that leave the reader emotionally raw. This is an incredibly accomplished work from a writer to watch.
Dinosaur is available now from Ellipsis Zine.