June 28, 2005

BOOKS: Mammoth, John Varley (2005)

Megalomaniac zillionaire Howard Christian flits from one eccentric obsession to another, and his current ambition is to bring the mammoth back to life. The research expedition he's funded in Nunavut finds him a relatively intact mammoth corpse, buried deep in the ice, from which it might be possible to extract enough DNA to clone a mammoth. The mammoth isn't the only body Christian's team finds, though. There's a man huddled next to it, and his body, like the mammoth's, has been there for 12,000 years or so.

So how is it that he's wearing a wristwatch?

Varley's Mammoth is an amiably meandering tale of time travel, cloning, and the Little Guy who must battle the Evil Tycoon. There are some terrific moments, notably the spectacular arrival of a herd of mammoths on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, and Varley does better than most at closing the weird loopholes that pop up in time travel stories.

Pleasant, if not essential, reading.

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