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Review: It's Cloned Mammoths vs. Billionaire Hunters in This New Sci-Fi Novel

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minis_The-Tusks-of-Extinction | <em/>The Tusks of Extinction/Tordotcom

Ray Nayler’s debut novel, The Mountain in the Sea (2022), told an inverted version of a first contact story. Instead of intelligent aliens from another world, human beings encounter evidence of another tool- and language-using species here on Earth: a variety of octopus. Nayler’s future was one in which nonhuman intelligence abounded, in the form of varying levels of AI, and in which people had so thoroughly dismissed and disrespected the natural world they nearly overlooked the dawn of a newly advanced species right beneath the waves.

In Nayler’s similarly themed follow-up, The Tusks of Extinction, poachers have wiped out Earth’s wild elephants. Advances in cloning technology allow scientists to bring back the wooly mammoth. But the mammoths don’t know how to be mammoths. So the scientists that cloned the giant creatures also resurrect a digital copy of a dead scientist and activist who, before her death, studied elephants in the wild.

As in MountainTusks treats intelligence and consciousness as spectrums rather than as simple binaries, portraying a planet on which humans are not so special, and animals, extinct and reborn, serve as moral competitors. In a world where new forms of intelligence seem to be appearing every day, his books raise vital questions about what qualities give a being worth.

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