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"With his knack for turning narrative nonfiction into stories worthy of the best thriller fiction" (Omnivoracious), Ben Mezrich takes us on an exhilarating true adventure story from the icy terrain of Siberia to the cutting-edge genetic labs of Harvard University. A group of young scientists, under the guidance of Dr. George Church, the most brilliant geneticist of our time, works to make fantasy reality by sequencing the DNA of a frozen woolly mammoth harvested from above the Arctic Circle and splicing elements of that sequence into the DNA of a modern elephant. Will they be able to turn the hybrid cells into a functional embryo and bring the extinct creatures to life in our modern world?
Along with Church and his team of Harvard scientists, a world-famous conservationist and a genius Russian scientist plan to turn a tract of the Siberian tundra into Pleistocene Park, populating the permafrost with ancient herbivores as a hedge against an environmental ticking time bomb.
More than a story of genetics, this is a thriller illuminating the race against global warming, the incredible power of modern technology, the brave fossil hunters who battle polar bears and extreme weather conditions, and the ethical quandary of cloning extinct animals. Can we right the wrongs of our ancestors who hunted the woolly mammoth to extinction - and at what cost?
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By Alex Curtis on 11-03-17
Mezrich's worst creation
As a fan of Ben Mezrich I was excited to see his next book arrive. It seemed to get good reviews and I jumped into it with excitement.
Imagine if you will, a book that was commissioned by a publisher in the spring of 1941 to tell the history and memories of WWII. Would such a book provide any justice to the events that happened? Would it even be relevant or accurate, since it would occur before the war ended or even major events occurred like Pearl Harbor or the Atomic Bomb?
Well that incomprehensible example i just gave is exactly what this book is. It tells the true "Jurassic park-like story of rebuilding a wholly mammoth" except that the story isn't ready to tell yet. The biggest events of this story are yet to come. It's like reading a 350 page prologue which sets up a historical story that hasn't happened yet. The book even ends saying that it might be 20 years before we actually see this play out.
It's clear that Mezrich began researching this story, assuming it would make a great book. On paper it seems like it would (which is why I read it), but it seems like he must have realized at some point that there just isn't enough to talk about here. The first third of the book is much more dense and rich than the remaining two thirds. His publisher was probably getting antsy about printing something they had already paid him an advance on, and so he was forced to cobble together enough contractually obligated pages to send this to print.
There are entire chapters dedicated to background characters that are only mentioned a few times outside of their origin story chapters. Mezrich flips back and forth between multiple very weak story lines to drag out the minimal content that he has for the primary story. You will hear about 3-4 different stories that are only correlated in the loosest sense.
In the end, i don't blame Mezrich's writing. I think he did the best he could do. It's well written and descriptive. Unfortunately there just isn't anything of substance here. He has to lean on detailed depictions to fill pages, not to illustrate a story better. It's like writing about how paint dries, you can do your best to make it descriptive, make it feel like the reader is next to you watching it dry, you can go into immense detail about the science of paint and how or why it dries, you can tell side stories about the man who invented paint originally. But at the end of the day, it's still a story about watching paint dry and there just it's just not a story worth telling.
This is that story.
The first third of the book will make great exposition to the story when this book gets rewritten in 20 years (after all the foreshadowed things actually happen). But until then go read one of Mezrich's other books. This book has no end. The final chapter can easily get misunderstood for any other chapter. I actually had to check my audio file to see if the app messed up when the book ended. The final words didn't feel anything like an ending. In fact it felt like a buildup for the next chapter. I wondered if I had to download another part of the book or something. It was very confusing, disappointing, and worst of all, unsatisfying.
Seriously one of the worst books I've ever read.
18 of 19 people found this review helpful
By Bun-Bun Baxter on 08-27-17
There's a lot of tangential padding between the sections of salient content in this tale of recent developments in genetic engineering, such as education and employment histories of the researchers. Get past the weeds and there's an interesting record of how and why humans are attempting de-extinction of the woolly mammoth.
The prose has neither beauty nor brilliance, coming as close to factual reporting as creative nonfiction can be. The audiobook narration pauses awkwardly midphrase, time and again, which is all the more surprising because it's the author reading his own words.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful