ARC Review: The Tusks of Extinction by Ray Nayler

Today’s review is about THE TUSKS OF EXTINCTION by Ray Nayler. It’s a standalone, science fiction novella in which a human consciousness is downloaded into a mammoth.

Author: Ray Nayler
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Tordotcom
Publish Date: January 16, 2024
Print Length: 112

Want to support local bookstores? Buy a copy of The Tusks of Extinction on!*

*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

Official Synopsis

When you bring back a long-extinct species, there’s more to success than the DNA.

Moscow has resurrected the mammoth. But someone must teach them how to be mammoths, or they are doomed to die out again.

Dr. Damira Khismatullina, an expert in elephant behavior, was brutally murdered trying to defend the world’s last elephants from the brutal ivory trade. Now, her digitized consciousness has been downloaded into the mind of a mammoth.

As the herd’s new matriarch, can Damira help fend off poachers long enough for the species to take hold? Or will her own ghosts, and Moscow’s real reason for bringing the mammoth back, doom them to a new extinction?

A tense SF thriller from a new master of the genre.

My Review

I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

THE TUSKS OF EXTINCTION is a unique science fiction that takes on the topic of animal conservation and what that might look like in the near future. In this novella, the world’s elephants are all but dead from the illegal ivory trade. In their stead, scientists bring the mammoth back to life, but notice they don’t quite have the instincts to survive. To help them, they download the digitized consciousness of a murdered elephant expert into a mammoth.

Yes, you read that right: there is a human consciousness in the body of a mammoth. Although marketed as science fiction, which it is, THE TUSKS OF EXTINCTION focus mainly on the multi-faceted consequences of human intervention in nature. This means both the negative and good-intentioned sides of this broad topic. I thought this was the most interesting aspect of the story. The soft science fiction is certainly fantastical, but it’s the human connection to animals that held my attention.

This novella is somewhat philosophical, but not overly so and is quite approachable. It basically shines a light on the cruelty and detrimental effects of the ivory trade. Not only does this illegal activity kill elephants, but it also results in the deaths of those who try to protect these animals. It is a dangerous job, even today, much less the future. Additionally, it explores the cruel irony in allowing trophy hunting of an endangered animal to bring in funds to continue to save said animal.

THE TUSKS OF EXTINCTION also fantasizes about “what if” animals reacted to their shared trauma and turned on humans. This is where human consciousness meets animal naivete. There is some irony to this in that it is the human mammoth who must teach the “pure at heart” animals how to defend themselves.

Finally, the characterization is well done for a novella. I don’t feel that the reader becomes too attached to each character. But Nayler provides enough backstory and insight into each person that it keeps the reader turning those pages. It is less thriller and more about the humanity, helplessness, frustration, and even hope of ensuring an animal’s prosperity. THE TUSKS OF EXTINCTION will certainly appeal to readers of soft science fiction that blends with current societal issues.

Rating: 4
Content warnings: blood, death, violence, gore
Reading format: Kindle e-book

8 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Tusks of Extinction by Ray Nayler

  1. This sounds like one of those ideas that’s so weird it’s either very good or very bad, so it’s great that you enjoyed it! I’m kind of curious why they brought back mammoths instead of just elephants though! :p

    1. It’s definitely a unique concept! I wasn’t sure I read the first few pages correctly at first! I could answer your question about mammoths vs elephants if you want…I don’t think the answer is a spoiler, though it is discussed later in the novella…let me know!

  2. I’m fascinated by this one – I read and (kinda) enjoyed The Mountain In The Sea, which is also very much about conservation as well as non-human consciousness, although at this point I’ve left it so long to write a review I don’t think I could do it justice. It’s chewy and thinky and it sounds like Tusks fits this model also (but shorter, which appeals enormously).

    1. I have yet to read THE MOUNTAIN IN THE SEA, though I do own it. I didn’t realize it was the same author until a week ago. Sounds like I’ll probably enjoy the book seeing as I liked this novella. But yes, shorter reads are always nice!

Leave a Reply