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Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time is the first book in the Dinotopia series. It was originally published in 1992 and republished in 2012 as the 20th Anniversary Edition.

Plot summary[]

Attention:  This article, or section, may contain spoilers! Read on at own risk!

Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time is the title of an illustrated journal of thoughts, observations and personal encounters by Dr. Arthur Denison, a scientist and engineer, with sections added periodically by his adolescent son, Will Denison.

In the year 1860, the father and son embark on a trip together via sailing ship, departing from Boston Harbor, Massachusetts (USA), along with several crew members. Their destination is not clear. Some weeks after their ship had been at sea, the vessel encountered a violent storm, possibly a hurricane, which caused it to capsize and sink. The Denisons are the only survivors after the entire crew drowns. As the two are clinging to pieces of the ship amidst huge waves and torrential rain, a pair of eager dolphins appear; as if by instinct, the friendly cetaceans coax the men to hold-on to their dorsal fins. With no other options, they each are ferried by a dolphin to a nearby island, where they pass out from exhaustion, but awaken the next morning relatively uninjured. The dolphins can be seen leaping in the water offshore, making sure the father and son are alright. The two men were, unknowingly, shipwrecked off the coast of a lost island called Dinotopia.

As they are searching for water or some form of food, they begin to hear hoots and strange calls from the island’s interior jungle. Out of the trees, a small female Protoceratops named Bix appears, curious as to what the men are doing. Her sudden presence startles Arthur and Will, who (rather lazily) tosses a rock to scare the animal, but ends up hitting her in the leg. Bix’s “dramatic” cries of “pain” ultimately summon forth the source of the strange noises they had been hearing, as a protective group of prehistoric creatures bursts forth. The group of large reptiles eye the men, grunting and growling—not threateningly, but still suspiciously. Naturally, Arthur and Will are stunned to be surrounded by such creatures—including an Ankylosaurus, an Apatosaurus, a Pachycephalosaurus, and several Triceratops—as well as a young girl named Sylvia, who appears to be able to soothe and communicate with the dinosaurs. She takes the father and son into the interior of the island, to her family’s farm, where they are tended to by the owners of a dinosaur egg hatchery. The Hatchery is a facility where dinosaurs are incubated and hatched, tended to by both dinosaurs and humans. The main workers at the establishment are Oviraptors. The Denisons, along with Sylvia, then set out to explore the island, hoping to find a means of returning to their old lives.

Arthur and Will undergo a broad journey, nearly circling the island, as they endeavor to learn the customs and culture of their apparent new home. Arthur, in particular, develops an interest in the scientific accomplishments of the natives, which far exceed that of any human culture, yet remain somewhat primitive. His own experiences in the fields of zoology, paleontology, and biology impress many of the scholarly individuals on Dinotopia. Arthur’s additional knowledge of engineering and machinery is equally impressive. Among the subjects he studies are the flora of the island, the partnership of its inhabitants, and the existence of a location known as the “World Beneath”. This is a subterranean network of caverns under the island, with oceanic tunnel connections, and Arthur realizes it is the only viable explanation for the dinosaurs of the island surviving the Cretaceous-era mass extinction event. While most of the Earth's living organisms were destroyed, a select few hid in the vast underground caverns of the World Beneath. Millennia afterwards, shipwrecked human travelers began to be ferried ashore by the same dolphins that had rescued the Denisons. These early marooned travelers and their ancestors were the original Dinotopians, who fostered a peaceful relationship with the island’s dinosaur population. No one has entered the World Beneath for centuries, but Arthur intends to do so.

His son Will, on the other hand, has chosen to train as a messenger of the sky; a Skybax rider, who lives in symbiosis with his mount, the great Quetzalcoatlus (nicknamed Skybax), a species of pterosaur. Training alongside Will is a girl called Sylvia, with whom Will falls in love. The natives refer to this and any other profound bond as Cumspiritik, which means literally "together-breathing." (Romana Denison of the later Dinotopia film series is said to be Will's daughter.)

Arthur, for his part, travels into the World Beneath, at the same time that Will and Sylvia are learning to fly with the Skybax. When he returns, he is fascinated by the ancient relics found there and convinced that they may be key in enabling him to leave or explore the island.

Meanwhile, Will and Sylvia learn and master Skybax flight. When at last they have been accepted as Riders, they travel to meet Arthur and his Protoceratops guide Bix, but are distracted on the way by a thunderstorm. Luckily, they survive and arrive on time to meet their kin. Will is at the time too young to marry Sylvia, but it's promised that they will. Arthur recognizes that his son has grown up, and they each accept the changes that are results of their new lives on the island.

Prehistoric animals[]