Final installment of Baxter’s trilogy (it previously appeared in Britain) featuring intelligent mammoths—although, unaccountably, the publishers released the first two volumes here in the wrong order (Silverhair, 1999; Longtusk, 2001). It is now the fourth millennium. The mammoth Icebones, daughter of Silverhair, wakes from prolonged suspended animation—on top of Olympus Mons, the highest mountain on Mars! Moreover, she’s at once surrounded by bewildered mammoths who, fed and nurtured by humans, have no idea how to survive now that the humans have gone. Mammoths have innate language skills, so at least the small, squat Icebones can talk with her tall, spindly, Mars-born cousins. Icebones, with her hard-won survival skills, must become Matriarch, and weld the confused group into a herd. But there’s no food and little water on the mountain, and it seems that, briefly warm and wet, Mars is already cooling and dying. The mammoths might survive in Hellas basin, the deepest crater on the planet. And so they begin an epic journey across half the globe: down the enormous mountain, past huge frozen seas, through the vast canyon of the Valles Marineris, battling thirst, cold, starvation, predators, and even each other—not all the mammoths accept Icebones’s leadership. And even if the herd attains its goal, it’s far from certain that mammoths can survive if the planet continues to cool.
Impossible not to cheer for Baxter’s plucky pachyderms: a saga that, even at its most improbable, engages the reader’s heart and mind.