Review by Booklist Review
More than a century after the brutal, exploitative ivory trade drove the elephants to extinction, Dr. Damira Khismatullina, one of the elephants' fiercest defenders, is uploaded from a backup into the brain of a mammoth. Russian scientists are hoping that they can reform a new ecosystem on the steppe, but their genetically resurrected mammoths aren't forming herds or making needed social connections. The scientists are hoping Damira can teach the mammoths the ways of elephants, helping them learn to survive and self-sustain. But what they aren't betting on is just how angry Damira is--or just how intelligent their mammoths have become. This short, suspenseful novella is action-packed while asking complex, tough questions about humanity: Is a person or creature resurrected from a backup really the same? And what truly is human compared to animal? In just under 100 pages of narrative, Nayler writes a compelling, thought-provoking sf tale inspired by the brutal reality of the modern-day ivory trade. Fans of biology-inspired sf will enjoy this short book about human greed, the beauty of mammoths, and one human's consuming fury.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
After exploring octopus intelligence in 2022's Locus Award--winning The Mountain in the Sea, Nayler peers into the vast brains of the extinct woolly mammoth, brought back to life by futuristic gene-splicing techniques, in this impassioned and impressive sci-fi novella. The story follows the late Dr. Damira Khismatullina as her memories and expertise on elephants, backed up on a hard drive after her death, are implanted into a mammoth, giving its captivity-raised herd a chance to survive in the wild. ("We propose to make you a matriarch," the scientist in charge tells Khismatullina before her death. "We propose to transfer your mind into one of theirs. You will lead them. You will teach them how to be mammoths. Under your leadership, they will thrive.") Tracking the herd are a team of hardscrabble ivory poachers and a wealthy philanthropist who harbors dark hopes of bagging a mammoth. The conflict between herd and humans is tensely portrayed, even if the ending is unsurprising. Nayler makes clear which side readers should be on, though he is fair in presenting both the lure of ivory riches to indigent locals and the pressures on scientists to fund conservation through elite indulgence. The result is an uncompromising climate fiction that strikes like a spear to the gut. (Jan.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
Dr. Damira Khismatullina is the world's premier expert on elephant behavior in the wild when she and her entire team are murdered by ivory poachers as the last herds of wild elephants are slaughtered for their tusks. It is the end of the elephants' story, and it should be Damira's as well. But her consciousness was uploaded before she died and now has been downloaded into the matriarch of a herd of mammoths, recreated in a lab in a de-extinction experiment. Damira leads the mammoths well, and they thrive, until greed brings new poachers to the taiga to take their ivory. But Damira is much better armed as a mammoth, and she is determined that this time the fight will end differently--even at the cost of the last shreds of her remembered humanity. That so much of the story is told through the eyes of Damira gives it a gut punch of an ending. VERDICT Nayler's (The Mountain in the Sea) compelling sci-fi thriller contemplates human greed and de-extinction through science. Highly recommended for readers of ecoterrorism thrillers and climate fiction.--Marlene Harris
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