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Dinotopia: First Flight is the third Dinotopia book written by James Gurney. It was released on October 31, 1999 by Harper Collins. The story is notably shorter than Gurney's previous two installments, at only sixty pages. First Flight flashes back thousands of years to the island of Poseidos and details the story of young Gideon Altaire and the genesis of the Skybax Riders. The first edition included a fold-out board game.

Publisher's Summary[]


The much-anticipated third book in James Gurney's Dinotopia series takes us back to Dinotopia's ancient past, where the Empire of Poseidos is about to use its robotic technology to capture the peaceful dinosaurs of Dinotopia. Only Gideon Altairs and his faithful mechanical friend, Fritz, can stop this evil plan. But first they must escape Poseidos and win the trust of the prehistoric creatures.

This dramatic addition to the award-winning Dinotopia series tells a tale of partnership and courage, where humans and animals fight side by side to overcome the greatest challenge yet to face Dinotopia. As a special bonus, the front cover opens up to reveal an easy-to-learn board game. By Detaching the game cards from the back of the book, players can join Gideon on his adventures, experiencing his crushing setbacks and his high-flying triumphs.

Plot Summary[]

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

Will Denison, entering final phase of his training to become a skybax rider, must now learn of Gideon Altaire and the story of his ‘first flight’ on the back of a Quetzalcoatlus northropi (or skybax). What follows in the story are the contents of the scroll Will is reading.

Gideon’s story begins with the boy hitching a ride to flight school on the tail of a bronto strutter, having missed the skimmer bus. He is accompanied by Fritz, his hoverhead. When he arrives, he joins the other students in piloting drones, with an assignment to herd captured sauropod dinosaurs on Ko Veng Island into an enclosure. Instead, Gideon lands his drone and sits back to watch the dinosaurs roam. His drone is then smashed by a dinosaur's giant foot. Gideon is immediately brought to Roff Stricker's office and reprimanded for the inadvertent destruction of school property. Gideon requests a new assignment, and Stricker tempts him with the possibilities open to him, if only he would apply his considerable talent and potential to fitting-in and following orders; Gideon refuses, departing from the school.

As Gideon stares out from his balcony over the Dinotopian terrain, an injured Scaphognathus, a small type of pterosaur, alights near him. When Gideon brings the pterosaur inside to assist with its injured wing, it introduces itself as Razzamult, and expresses a desire to go to the dance parade. They attend, and Razzamult has Gideon follow the dance troupe into their camp. There, he meets Faldo Mustakka, a man who is already acquainted with Gideon's new pterosaur friend. After speaking with Razzamult, Faldo translates the pterosaur's information: Highnest has been invaded by Poseidos, and the Ruby Sunstone has been stolen, along with four pterosaurs that are now being held captive on Poseidos. Faldo and Razzamult fear that the immense power of the Ruby Sunstone will be used to destroy all of Dinotopia, and Gideon sees that the practice exercises being run at the flight school fit into this plan. Faldo and his niece, Mirella, provide Gideon with the uniform of a Strutterworks guard (in order to infiltrate the Strutterworks, and reclaim the Ruby Sunstone). They also give him a conch shell, with the instructions, "Blow on this shell when you are in danger, and friends will come to help you."

Gideon sneaks past the guards at the entrance of the Strutterworks, telling them that he needs to repair his hoverhead, and proceeds through the corridors until coming across a large hangar where a giant air scorpion was being built. The moment he sees it, he realizes this machine will be used in an attempt to conquer the mainland. Gideon sneaks up to the dormant machine's cockpit and removes the Ruby Sunstone from its bracket, activating an alarm. Fritz switches the alarm to another part of the building, but Gideon knows that will only serve as a temporary diversion. He blows the conch shell, only to hear the distressed cries of pterosaurs in response. Following their calls to a nearby room, Gideon finds four winged creatures (Catapult, Scimitar, Zanzibar, and Avatar—a Tapejara, Dsungaripterus, Tropeognathus, and Quetzalcoatlus, respectively) being held in a wind-tunnel, under observation by Poseidian engineers so their forms may be imitated in machine form. Roff Stricker appears in an air lock and, again, tries to tempt Gideon with a second chance. Again, Gideon refuses. He leaps to a nearby portal and wrestles it open, setting the pterosaurs—and himself—free. Dashing across rooftops, he finally comes to a skimmer landing, and there steals a police skimmer, using the Ruby Sunstone to power it. Using the skimmer to outrun the police, Gideon escapes from Poseidos and flies towards the mainland. The antigravity generator begins to malfunction as he gets close, forcing him down over Sapphire Bay.

After falling asleep on the shore, Gideon awakes to find he is surrounded by a group of humans and saurians. One of them, a Triceratops named Humadee, questions Gideon about his identity and intentions, before informing him of a rumor that Poseidos was planning to invade the mainland with fighter sprogs. Alarmed, Gideon sends Razzamult to Highnest to warn the inhabitants and tell them that he is on his way, making the journey to Highnest across land. Meanwhile, the Fish Fleet makes its landing in Sapphire Bay, each ship disgorging its cargo of sprogs. Humadee tells Gideon to make his way through Mukkawukka Swamp, where Bandy (a small, ring-tailed mammal known as Plesictis) would lead him to Highnest. Humadee and the others will distract the sprogs. Once in the swamp, Gideon again blows on the conch shell, which summons forth a trio of small allies: Budge (an Estemmenosuchus, a mammal-like reptilian therapsid), Binny (a Necrolemur, a small primate ancestor of the tarsier) and Bongo (a Plesiadapis, related to lemurs). After learning of Gideon's story, they are motivated to help; Bandy reminds them that once they are done with Highnest, the Poseidians could, very well, invade Mukkawukka Swamp next.

Deep in the swamp, Gideon and his band of heroes are ambushed by a sprog; Gideon is caught, and the Ruby Sunstone is taken from him by one of the sprog's hoverheads, who flies back towards Poseidos. As Gideon is placed inside the sprog, his animal friends spring into action, disabling the sprog and dismantling its hoverhead crew. Fritz takes up residence on one of the dismantled hoverheads' bodies. With the sunstone now lost, the urgency of Gideon's mission increases greatly.

Upon reaching Highnest, Gideon and his new friends, along with the pterosaurs, work to hide the pterosaur eggs. They realize that Stricker could only control the skies with the air scorpion if he could control the pterosaurs, making Highnest an obvious first target. They would have to fight him in-flight. The pterosaurs surmise that Gideon and his animal allies could not be much heavier than the eggs they had all just carried on their backs, suggesting that the pterosaurs be the ones to carry them into battle. Gideon and friends agree, with Binny riding on Razzamult, Bandy on Catapult, Bongo on Scimitar, Budge on Zanzibar, and Gideon on Avatar. Together, they fight against the drones sent against Highnest, flying straight for the air scorpion. One of the machine's claws plucks Gideon right off of Avatar's back, bringing him close enough to the cockpit to see that Roff Stricker, himself, was at the helm.

The young hero and crew leap from their pterosaurs' backs onto the air scorpion's hull, sabotaging it while freeing Gideon, who climbs up the air scorpion's arm to reach the cockpit. He removes the ruby sunstone and, now without its power source, the huge machine begins to rapidly lose altitude. Just before crashing to the ground, a small skimmer shoots out of the cockpit hatch, returning Gideon to Poseidos. Back at Highnest, the heroes celebrate their victory, and Avatar presents Gideon with a token he had carved as a symbol of their bond.

The book then returns to Will Denison, who receives a similar token from Cirrus.

Prehistoric animals[]