STARRED REVIEW
July 2017

The tip of the iceberg

By Ben Mezrich

When Michael Crichton published Jurassic Park in 1990, people were enthralled by the idea of bringing long-extinct dinosaur species back to life. It was an intriguing notion, yet pure science-fiction entertainment. Now, just over 25 years later, a similar concept may soon become a reality, as evidenced by the fascinating new book Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures by Ben Mezrich.

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When Michael Crichton published Jurassic Park in 1990, people were enthralled by the idea of bringing long-extinct dinosaur species back to life. It was an intriguing notion, yet pure science-fiction entertainment. Now, just over 25 years later, a similar concept may soon become a reality, as evidenced by the fascinating new book Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures by Ben Mezrich.

Mezrich explains how a team of scientists led by brilliant geneticist Dr. George Church is currently working on resurrecting the prehistoric woolly mammoth. The scientists are trying to sequence the DNA of woolly mammoths that were found frozen in the Arctic and splice elements of that sequence into the DNA of a modern Asian elephant (its closest living ancestor).

Repopulating the woolly mammoth in an isolated region of Siberia is the brainchild of Russian scientist Sergey Zimov, who has slowly been collecting mammals that can survive the area’s frigid conditions such as reindeer, musk oxen and moose. Called Pleistocene Park, this experiment is not a whimsical theme park, but rather a way to slow down global warming. When herbivores disappeared from this region, much of the vegetation vanished, too. Reviving the grasslands and animals that feed on them helps keep the permafrost from melting, preventing the release of carbon into the atmosphere and decelerating the greenhouse effect so detrimental to our planet.

Deftly connecting the backstories of all the players involved in this extremely complex undertaking, Mezrich explains the genetics and genomics in layman’s terms, piecing together a mesmerizing tale. He also discusses the numerous obstacles they face—political, ethical and monetary, to name a few. A thought-provoking story, Woolly shows how the power of technology can take concepts previously considered inconceivable and transform them into realities.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Woolly

Woolly

By Ben Mezrich
Atria
ISBN 9781501135552

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