A Bone from a Dry Sea

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care → Unobjectionable

In Brief: Interesting, helping the imagination discover the relationship between modern and ancient Africa; divorced parents; the birth of intelligence in mammals.

Cover of A Bone from a Dry Sea

Author: Peter Dickinson

Publisher: Corgi

Published in: 1996

Age Range: Young Teens

Period: Contemporary

Genres:  SciFiThought-provoking


Li, an intelligent Aquatic ape lives four million years ago on the shores of an African Sea; Vinny, now, is helping her father discover the fossilised remains of Li's tribe.

Two parallel stories are running throughout this book: the one of Li, an aquatic ape supposed by some to represent the ancestors of modern man; and the other of Vinny, a modern-day teenager, visiting the palaeontological dig in Africa where her father is an expert in fossil remains. The story of Li is simply putting forward in plausible terms the idea that man's ape ancestors went through a stage of living partly in the water. The modern-day story shows Vinny and her father finding remains of Li's tribe and her way of life, and details the frictions between the members of the team and with the country whose land they are digging up.


An interesting book, granted its premises, whose characters, modern and prehistoric, do engage in their different ways.

The author is dealing with the issue of intelligence in otherwise unintelligent apes: (p43) “The real excitement lay in thinking. Her days were electric with thought. It was better than food, better than warmth, better than sleep.”

Vinny's parents are separated / divorced and each is going out with someone else.

Africa was incredibly old, Vinny thought. Animals had hunted each other, run from each other for millions of years. But even Africa changed. Once the plain had been a sea and the badlands a sea channel and then a marsh. She tried to imagine it then. What sort of an island, what sort of a marsh? What creatures then? And what sort of people? But her imagination wouldn't take hold. There was too much she didn't know

Tuesday 1st January 2002