By Ben Arzate
Colin, his friend Emma, and his brother Joe find themselves transported to a strange world when they find a dinosaur-shaped, dance-powered ship on a camping trip. In this world, dinosaurs are still alive, intelligent, and much of their culture is based on dancing. When Joe is captured by the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Colin and Emma set out with the help of an Apatosaurus named Rose, to rescue Joe and defeat the T-Rex in the Ultimate Dinosaur Dance-Off
“Colin had spent his entire life wanting nothing more than to meet a dinosaur, but now that he stood a few feet from one, he couldn’t bring himself to act.”
If an excitable kid was allowed to write their own cartoon, it would probably look a lot like this book. This isn’t a bad thing at all. Stone clearly had a ball writing this book and it makes reading it just as fun as well. Even in moments when the book gets somewhat dark or gross, there’s a sense of humor underneath it that makes it keep its upbeat energy.
For example, the story often flashes back to Colin’s relationship with a girl named Tracey. She’s his first girlfriend, but he soon discovers the only way he can finish when he’s having sex with her is if she paints her face as a dinosaur or uses one of his pieces of dinosaur art during it. The goofy nature of Colin’s personal struggles make them never feel out of place.
For a lot of the weird concepts in the book, such as the fact that music constantly plays in the air and the dinosaurs only move by dancing, which sometimes makes them fly, the story is pretty straightforward. Colin and his friends are the “chosen ones,” prophesied to defeat the evil T-Rex who forced the herbivores into hiding and are basically required to take this journey by one of them being kidnapped. Other significant points in the plot include a romance between Rose (who, remember, is an Apatosaurus) and Colin, and Colin having doubts about his dancing being able to win the competition.
If I had one major complaint about the book, it would be that it was a bit too predictable in terms of the story. I saw most of the plot points coming from early in the book. What kept me reading, however, was the humor and what kind of odd ways Stone was going to deliver the plot points. Even though I knew what the resolution would be, the trip there was still enjoyable. This is something that would be good for a fan of quirky speculative fiction who isn’t familiar with the bizarro subgenre.
While not breaking any new ground with its story of chosen ones on a quest, The Ultimate Dinosaur Dance-Off is well worth a read for its humor and its colorful psychedelic atmosphere. Also, it’s about dinosaurs. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Especially when they dance.
Ben Arzate lives in Des Moines, IA. His articles, reviews, short stories, and poetry have appeared in various places online and in print. He is a regular contributor to Cultured Vultures and is the author of two poetry books (the sky is black and blue like a battered child and dr. sodom and mrs. gomorrah, feel bad all the time), one book of short stories (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Saying Goodbye, NihilismRevised), and two novels (The Story of the Y, Cabal Books and Elaine, Atlatl Press). Find him online at dripdropdripdropdripdrop.blogspot.com.