BOOK CLUB: Mammoth

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[Total: 3 Average: 4.3]

Author: Chris Flynn
ISBN: 978-0-7022-6274-6

Copy courtesy of University of Queensland Press

Mammoth is Chris Flynn’s third published book and the first of his works that I have read. I was unsure what to expect from a book narrated by a thirteen thousand three hundred and fifty-four-year-old fossil skeleton of an extinct mammoth and without a doubt, this book is a very different offering.

We first meet our narrator, referred to throughout the book as Mammut, as he reminisces about the first time he killed a man, and what drove him to do so, before he is interrupted and brought back to the book’s present, the year 2007, awaiting the natural history auction to be conducted in Manhattan New York.  

Mammut’s interrupter is Tyrannosaurus bataar, a distant relative to the more well-known dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Rex, who states he died sixty-seven million years ago, long before the “Amateur” Mammut even walked the earth.

Mammut then proceeds to tell his life story of events leading to his eventual death, how his fossilised remains were found, and reassembled into a complete skeleton (even if his tusks were incorrectly installed) and his experiences over the years. In addition to T bataar his audience includes a mummified hand that insists it belongs to Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut and a ten million-year-old Penguin, Paleospheniscus patagonis. Along the way the other fossils provide information about their own deaths, how they were found, and how they have ended up at the auction site, in between sniping at Mammut and each other.

Although this is a relatively short book (254 pages) with a clear easy to read font  I found it to be heavy work to read.  Mammut’s telling of his story is ponderous and, as noted by his audience, Mammut clearly likes the sound of his own voice.  His tale also puts T bataar to sleep at one point (and I’m quite sure if I was listening to the tale rather than reading it I too would have been lulled to sleep).  Flynn tries to create breaks in the monologue with interruptions from the other fossils, but this only works to some extent. 

Whilst I learned much in reading the tale, as most of the characters and events are true, I was frustrated by some of the assumptions of knowledge that required me to cease reading in order to search the internet for an explanation.  The primary example of this is Flynn’s references to the hominids/bipeds who came after neanderthal man as Clovis, a term I had never heard before.  On investigation it appears that Clovis is the term for the ancestor of America’s indigenous population, those who we refer to as Red Indians, it would have been helpful if this had been explained within the context of the book (even as a footnote).

The reviews selected for the back cover of the book all refer to Flynn’s book in terms of being playful, hilarious, and funny.  While there is the odd amusing moment within the book I am unable to agree with this view.  I do however agree that Mammoth provides a “fascinating journey from the Pleistocene epoch to nineteenth-century America and beyond, revealing how ideas about science and religion have shaped our world.”

Overall Mammoth represents an unusual and different way of revealing the past, and reflecting on man’s impact on the world in which we live and our future.  Thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Queensland University Press for the opportunity to read and review Mammoth by Chris Flynn.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Mammoth by Chris Flynn. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

7 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Mammoth

  1. This book is very different but so good. . A 13,000-year-old extinct Mammoth, who, since being discovered has been in America, France and Ireland and is now on sale at a 2007 natural history auction in Manhattan. tells his story. On sale with him are the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar, a pterodactyl, a prehistoric penguin and the hand of an Egyptian mummy who all add to the narrative. The story is based on fact. Many historical figures are involved. It really is incredibly interesting and at times quite funny. Read it. You’ll learn, you’ll laugh and you’ll be entertained!

  2. This book was such a surprise! I was always intrigued by it but the humor that lurks throughout is second to none. The language used admittedly was a bit distracting at times as I was using my online dictionary a fair bit at the start.
    I was thoroughly entertained and would recommend if your after something different to sink your teeth into. It follows a tale of the great Mammoth ‘Mammut’ and his journey in life and in death. His remains are in an auction house along with some dinosaurs, a dead penguin and an Egyptian Mummys hand. They all have a consciousness and are fully aware of themselves and surroundings. The Dialogue between them all is hilarious. Which in retrospect is needed as Mammuts telling of his story can be a bit long in the tooth. Thank you Beauty and Lace and UQP for the opportunity to read and review this novel by Chris Flynn!

  3. Oh my gosh, what an unusual book! I’ve never read a book with the primary narrator being a 13,354+ year old extinct American mastodon called Mammut. Neither have you, I would imagine. The science behind all this is hazy and ridiculous, but somehow Chris Flynn makes it work – it is fiction, after all – and has produced a novel with a lot of laughs, some sorrows, and a lot of history thrown in for good measure. Mammut was ‘dug up’ about 200 years ago, so he speaks with a distinctly old-fashioned manner and vocabularly. There are a few other funny fossils, all sitting around waiting to be auctioned, each with their own story. I think the funniest were a 67 million year old Tyrannosaurus bataar (known as T. bataar), with a rap, hip turn of phrase, and a 10 million year old Palaeospheniscus patagonicus (a penguin, known as Palaeo), who has a long-running feud with a hand (only a hand) from the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut (3,485+ years old), who calls him a deformed duck. Etc. It sounds crazy and it is. But behind the snappy to-and-fro is Mammut’s story, and it is totally fascinating. Just suspend disbelief and enjoy. Here’s a snippet between Mammut and T. bataar to enjoy:

    For what it’s worth, history proclaimed ‘Tyrannosaurus’ as winners. Your reputation for ferocity is unmatched. You are literally the worst creature that ever existed.
    Aw, thanks bro. We do it for the fans, you know?

    Thanks to Beauty & Lace and University of Queensland Press for the opportunity to read this book!

  4. Mammoth by Chris Flynn is a surprisingly different book which had me intrigued from the start. Reading a a story narrated by Mammut a 13,000 year old fossil gave the book an interesting perspective on life that had gone by since he had died and returned in spirit after being dug up as a fossil. His recounting of the bipeds (humans) that surrounded him was like walking through the pages of a history book. Fortunately the other fossils T.bataar especially helped to move the story along and created many humerus conversations – if only the bi-peds could hear what was being said. I really liked the ending of hope, when all along the story had mainly been about destruction and death. I could actually see this book being adapted into a great animated film, a great way to learn more about the ups and downs of history.
    Thank-you Beauty & Lace and University of Queensland Press for giving me the opportunity to read and recommend Mammoth by Chris Flynn

  5. I really wanted to love this book, I’d read so many great reviews on it and it had such an interesting and original premise, but unfortunately, it didn’t grab me as it did others. I found the history to be interesting and I thought the retelling by Mammut and his cohorts amusing at times, but it didn’t hold my interest the way it needed to in order to keep me fully engaged. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and UQP for providing me a copy in return for an honest review.

  6. Told through the eyes of a mammoth’s fossilised remains Chris Flynn has delivered a hilarious and thought-provoking tale of life, extinction and rebirth.
    As mammoth is exhumed from the earth his bones absorb information from the conversations around him. Now waiting to be auctioned in a New York City warehouse mammoth tells his story, by mental telepathy, to a tyrannosaurus skull, a penguin and a mummy hand. A story that spans oceans and centuries.

    Chris Flynn has extensively researched his subject matter and many historical events are included in a narrative where fact and fiction combine.

    With Mammut’s dry sarcasm, T-Bataar’s witty humour and penguin’s snarky comments Mammoth had me laughing and totally invested in their stories. These ancient fossilised bones felt like old friends.

    Funny, thought-provoking and unique Mammoth is a must read.

  7. What an unusual book to read! From the beginning, getting into the mindset of a Mammoth who narrates the story had me laughing and intrigued as to what life would have been like.

    Chris Flynn managed to bring these old fossils to life. It took a little while for me to get into the groove and feel it may be suitable for a younger reader.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and UQP for a copy of this unusual story.

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