A few posts back, I lamented about my lack of ability to read anything – or at least stay interested in anything. Well, I’m happy to report that I’m actually kind of on a roll with books right now, much like I am with blogging, even though I unintentionally took a week off from blogging. The 300+ hits that Mary Chapin Carpenter post got left me reeling, I guess. 🙂
At any rate, I just finished a book that I felt kind of deserved its own blog post. It is Ben Mezrich’s Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures. As you might imagine, it is about bringing Woolly Mammoths back to life via genetic engineering and splicing their genes into their closest living relatives, the elephant. I find de-extinction fascinating, although I do realize that it resides mostly in the realm of the fantastic. Things like Jurassic Park are just not ever likely to happen, because DNA from prehistoric creatures like that just doesn’t exist.
Not so with Woolly Mammoths. Since many unfossilized specimens have been found, the genome has a prayer of actually being sequenced although even that will be incomplete. Turns out DNA is a fragile bitch (who knew?) and hundreds of thousands of years of exposure to even ambient radiation will degrade it. And then there’s the difficulty in working with elephant stem cells and the TWENTY TWO MONTH elephant gestation time. Making a Mammoth is going to be harder than even Mr. DNA himself would have thought.
The book is written in what the author calls “creative non fiction” which resulted in a lot of 3 star reviews on Goodreads. Said reviews claimed the book was “hard to read” and that they “couldn’t tell if they were reading fiction or non-fiction.” I did not have this experience. To me, it read a lot like Mary Roach’s books, only the author did not insert himself into the narrative. The story jumps around a lot, and two chapters take place in the nebulous “3 years from today” time frame when Mammoths have been successfully recreated. I’m not going to give away the “why” behind resurrecting Woolly Mammoths because I thought it was kind of ingenious and really, I do highly recommend this book.
Woolly also has the distinction of getting me back into paper books. I’ll admit that most of the impetus for reading this in hardcover was because the library had it and the Kindle version was obscenely priced at $13.99. This is not a book I’ll re-read but I was very glad that I read it.
So if you’re looking for a good read about efforts to bring extinct animals back to life, Woolly is your book. Honestly though, I was far more intrigued by the possibility that they could bring passenger pigeons back.