THE MAMMOTH HUNTERS
Book Three in the adventures of Ayla-of-the-Ice Age, the Cro-Magnon Phi Beta who is raised (and cast out by) Neanderthal "flatheads." Having left The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), and after a sojourn in The Valley of Horses (1982)--where she met Jondalar (he of the golden hair), and domesticated horses and a lion--Ayla is about to meet Jondalar's distant kin, the Lion Camp of the Mamutoi--mammoth hunters in what is now part of the Ukraine. Ayla's cerebrations and trial-and-error experiments encapsulate most of the bright ideas which once, apparently, popped from the Cro-Magnon brainpan. Into the Lion Camp she'll bring, of course, some finished products: tame horses that astound the horse-eating hunters (Baby the Lion, who finished off Jondalar's brother, makes one cameo appearance later); herbal knowledge (she'll use digitalis foxglove on a weak-hearted youngster); spark-making with flint and iron pyrite; and the "spear thrower." In the Lion Camp she'll not only use a variant of the Heimlich maneuver and a mouth-to-mouth technique on a choking child, and invent the needle for sewing leather, but teach tolerance of physical differences (flatheads are human too!). Two difficult problems confront Ayla. Overcoming her fear of "Others"--anathema to the flathead Clan--she finds a home with people who are physically and mentally similar to herself. But should she join them forever? And then there's Jondalar, who taught her that sex is a real Pleasure. Does he not want her anymore? Jondalar, jealous when Ayla, following the old subservient-woman habit of the Clan, obligingly sleeps with charming Ranec, misunderstands. But at the close, after the great Summer Meeting of Mamutoi, the two will be off to Jondalar's native people, the Zelandonii--a prelude to Book Four. There's the usual irresistibly dingbat dialogue (one mammoth bone-tapping musician to another: "The piece needs balance as well as harmony . . .I think we could introduce a wind reed. . . "). Once again, Auel's second-source anthropological research is drummed home willy-nilly, in a jolly Wonder Woman tale thundering with the hoofbeats of shaggy animals, cave confabs, whistling spears, and whoopie sex. A biggie.