Reviewed: July 8, 2007
By: John Varley
Publisher: Ace Books
341 pages, $10.99
with a not very complimentary reference to Nunavut. Of course, this comes from
a man with very little interest in the world except as it pertains to
expediting his employer’s affairs, and Nunavut was an inconvenient place from
which to do that. But that’s where they found the mammoth, so that’s where
Warburton had to go.
the richest man in the world, had the notion that finding a completely intact
mammoth would enable him to harvest enough genetic material to clone one of the
beasts, so the news of the Nunavut discovery meant that Warburton had to go
look at it.
expecting the bodies curled up next to the mammoth. he wasn’t expecting the
wristwatch on the man, or the battered briefcase next to him. He wasn’t
expecting much of anything that would happen over the next five years, but them
Warburton was a man of limited imagination.
Christian was the richest man on Earth. His ability to take little sideways
leaps of creativity had enabled him to revolutionize the way the world worked -
twice. He could afford to indulge himself. He could collect comic books, build
enormous buildings, waste money on profitless R&D projects, or on even
stranger obsessions. He knew what the wristwatch had to mean.
Wright was hired by Howard Christian to invent, or reinvent, time travel. It
was hard to say which. The watch and the briefcase argued that the man who had
them had not been native to the era in which he died. Matt was the sort of
mathematical genius who might be able to figure out how that happened. Matthew
had lots of imagination and a gift for seeing patterns and relationships where
no one else could. In time the patterns he began to see scared the bejesus out
of him, but he didn’t see everything.
Morgan also worked for Howard Christian. By training she was an elephant
handler, one of the best, and that qualified her to oversee the artificial
insemination that Christian hoped would produce his mammoth. All her life Susan
had been in love with the circus, with elephants, and with the things she could
get them to do for their adoring public. If never occurred to her that she
would one day want to run away from the greatest show on Earth.
Matt not Susan had any intention of time travelling themselves, and when they
did most of their attention was focussed on surviving the experience and
somehow getting back home. That they ended up bringing a small herd of mammoths
with them into the middle of downtown LA traffic was sheer happenstance.
we’re a bit more than a third of the way through the book. We’ve learned a lot
about Matt, Susan and Howard, and even more about the origins of Big Mama and
Little Fuzzy, the two survivors of the LA mammoth stampede.
Much of the
latter comes from a delightful children’s educational book called Little
Fuzzy, a Child of the Ice Age, chapters of which are interspersed with
Varley’s main story. I have to say that these snippets of historical
recreation, packed with information but slightly tongue-in-cheek, are nearly as
much fun as the main story itself, and I was sorry there weren’t more of them.
Mammoth itself is
several different kinds of novel. Unlike much of Varley’s fiction, it is set on
Earth and seems to have no connection to the future history he has been giving
us by installments during his career. It’s not all that far in the future at
all, but it covers either five or six years in time, a man’s lifetime or over
15,000 years, depending on how you want to look at it.
science, mystery, romance, adventure and intrigue. It has a cast of interesting
people, most of whom mean well according to their own lights. It is a great
read, and my only regret is that it wasn’t longer.