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A nice recasting of a familiar theme

By Warren Fahy

Grand Central Publishing: 2009

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This review first appeared in Turbula in July 2009.

Debut author Warren Fahy has said in interviews he wanted to take the "lost world" theme, but inject some scientific reality into it.

Of course, for that to work, you need a special touch and a true gift for story telling. Fortunately for us, Fahy has both.

"Fragment" is a lost world tale, set in the fictional South Pacific island of Henders, way below Easter Island and even more isolated. As "Fragment" opens, a reality TV show is filming aboard a research vessel, and ratings are abysmal, cancellation likely before season's (or voyage's) end.

So a distress call from a missing boat is welcome news for the cast (and real crew, manning the ship out of sight of the cameras) – at least until they get to Henders, where they quickly realize that dinosaurs would be a familiar and less-dangerous improvement over what they're facing.

Cut off from the rest of the planet for several million years, Henders isn't a lost world of dinosaurs and sabre-tooth tigers a la Verne or Burroughs, but a true alternate evolutionary path: one where arthropods became the dominant form.

Mixing science and pop culture freely, Fahy weaves a suspenseful tale that makes this a hard book to put down for the night. What are these life forms? How dangerous are they? And which of the characters are doomed to not get off the island? His descriptions make Henders seem real, the dialogue is true to life, and the characters are fresh takes on the stock types.

The thriller part of the equation, combined with the out-there but still grounded science, is what's generating so many comparisons to the late Michael Crichton.

But Fahy is no disciple – he has already taken a giant conceptual leap past "Jurassic Park," and crafted a tale that is both more scientific and yet just as accessible a read.