John Varley
Mammoth Cover



This book was good enough to finish reading without considering stopping. It was above average. Varley tells a story that does not slow down, and, like Dan Brown, keeps enough action to draw attention away from his faulty technique. For Brown the fault is in his style, for Varley it's in his science. This is unfortunate since it's science fiction and would benefit from more than a bit of sleight of hand to make it plausible. It's not really surprising. Wells was pre-Einstein, so he could get away with just saying that time travel is possible, but old Albert ruined it for everyone. What you going to do?

In the mean time, the paradox seems to be covered, but is not quite, and that too is an illusion. So, if you can get past that, you have here Jurassic Park in a more likely form, no dinosaurs, just elephants that no longer exist. All the elements are here, responsible conscientious scientists, evil tycoons, show business writ large... very large. And like JP, this book cannot help a reference to King Kong. Mammoths aren't apes, but they also aren't dinosaurs. That's ok, because it gives a basis for understanding the beasts that anything involving dinosaurs lacks. What is more, Matt and Susan are great characters. Even Howard is good, though his actress girlfriend comes into the story too late to appreciate fully. For me, Susan is the star, though I'm not sure everyone would agree. She has the guts to instigate and pull off the great crisis even though her partner in crime was not a guaranteed asset.

Read Mammoth if you like hard SF but don't expect meticulous attention to scientific detail, just a wild ride. I dare say, read Mammoth if you like elephants and the circus, because this book gives a nice, balanced view of the issue. I don't know if Varley is personally acquainted with those issues or if he just has opinions, but I liked his thoughts. Finally, in spite of the slap jack science, the story gives a nod to other disciplines such as religion to fill the holes left by science in understanding existence. While Varley still holds back from giving any actual credence to any of the religions, he does admit that they have something that's lacking in the current vision of reality, and that's refreshing.