Tradition guides us and tells us, at times, to be untraditional. The mammoths of Stephen Baxter’s Trilogy, Silverhair, Longtusk and Icebones rely on tradition as a foundation for learning but must begin new ways as a matter of survival.
Silverhair, a young female destined to become Matriarch, must fight for her life as all she has known is ripped from her by the Lost -- small, two-legged creatures that use sticks that spit fire, and steal tusks from the dead. All three books
of The Mammoth Trilogy are interspersed with stories she tells her daughter Icebones, educating the young calf in the ways of the Matriarch. The only bull to earn a place in the Cycle, the great body of knowledge, is Longtusk.
Longtusk, living in 16,000 B.C., grows into adulthood surrounded by the Lost and the Dreamers, those small ones who wish to harm no one. Baxter even furthers the reality by contrasting Silverhair’s legends with the true story of Longtusk’s adventures.
Icebones, daughter of Silverhair, truly has the hardest of lives as, in 3,000 A.D., she is released onto the Sky Steppe of Mars to join other mammoths she does not know and must teach them to be a family and to survive following abandonment by the Lost. She risks much in traversing a strange land and faces newfound enemies, even from within her own group, to survive, relying on her wise mother’s lessons.
Stephen Baxter takes three incredible and incredulous circumstances and turns them into stories of inspiration and plausibility. After reading them, I wanted to call National Geographic and ask if there were mammoths actually living near the North Pole.
The technicality and research evident in his writing is exact, understandable and commendable. A word to the wise: read these books in the order published (Silverhair, Longtusk, Icebones) to truly appreciate and understand this complex and unfolding story.
Baxter “humanizes” the mammoths in a way that makes them more “human” than the real two-legged Lost in the story. Compassionate, wise, fearful, joyous, resentful, determined, headstrong and courageous, sometimes foolhardy. Silverhair, Longtusk and Icebones create a wonderful saga enjoyable by anyone at any age.