Woolly
Science fiction becomes reality in this Jurassic Park-like story of the genetic resurrection of an extinct species—the woolly mammoth—by the bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires and The 37th Parallel.“With his knack for turning narrative nonfiction into stories worthy of the best thriller fiction” (Omnivoracious), Ben Mezrich takes us on an exhilarating true adventure story from the icy terrain of Siberia to the cutting-edge genetic labs of Harvard University. A group of young scientists, under the guidance of Dr. George Church, the most brilliant geneticist of our time, works to make fantasy reality by sequencing the DNA of a frozen woolly mammoth harvested from above the Arctic circle, and splicing elements of that sequence into the DNA of a modern elephant. Will they be able to turn the hybrid cells into a functional embryo and bring the extinct creatures to life in our modern world?Along with Church and his team of Harvard scientists, a world-famous conservationist and a genius Russian scientist plan to turn a tract of the Siberian tundra into Pleistocene Park, populating the permafrost with ancient herbivores as a hedge against an environmental ticking time bomb. More than a story of genetics, this is a thriller illuminating the race against global warming, the incredible power of modern technology, the brave fossil hunters who battle polar bears and extreme weather conditions, and the ethical quandary of cloning extinct animals. Can we right the wrongs of our ancestors who hunted the woolly mammoth to extinction—and at what cost?

Woolly Details

TitleWoolly
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJul 4th, 2017
PublisherAtria Books
ISBN1501135554
ISBN-139781501135552
Number of pages304 pages
Rating
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Animals, History, Adventure

Woolly Review

  • Trish
    June 5, 2017
    Mezrich picks interesting topics, I will concede that. Readers may already have heard some years ago that a Harvard lab was working on de-extinction of the Woolly Mammoth. Mezrich brings us up to date on this project; indeed, the first and last chapters in this “nonfiction” are set in the future.If you are familiar with Mezrich’s writing, the author weights the concept narrative nonfiction heavily on the narrative and fiction sides, ostensibly to stoke momentum and get folks interested. The only Mezrich picks interesting topics, I will concede that. Readers may already have heard some years ago that a Harvard lab was working on de-extinction of the Woolly Mammoth. Mezrich brings us up to date on this project; indeed, the first and last chapters in this “nonfiction” are set in the future.If you are familiar with Mezrich’s writing, the author weights the concept narrative nonfiction heavily on the narrative and fiction sides, ostensibly to stoke momentum and get folks interested. The only problem is that his very good instincts about what is intrinsically an interesting story fights with his method. Sometimes the reader has to thrash through pages of invented dialogue to reach a critical conclusion, a real buzz killer if there ever was one.But this story works on many levels, and while we are following his careful step-by-step thrust with one eye, our mind is busy on the operations of a lab and the implications of the study for medicine, for wildlife, for every aspect of our visible and invisible world. Mezrich eventually addresses many of these key issues in the text, usually making the science sound responsible and considered. I started to grow more uncomfortable towards the end of the book, when we are reminded that the science has progressed so far so fast that genomic modifications have escaped the lab environment and can be undertaken in a made-over garage for relatively small costs, and that billionaires of every stripe are lining up to make their money count for something big. The real excitement of this story is in our imaginations, and what the skills and knowledge of present-day scientists can allow us to imagine. Mezrich places us in fund-raising meetings with billionaires, allowing the most humble among us to enjoy the same stories and sense of excitement that fuels movers and shakers. If the glamour of the whole thing begins to seem suspect at some point, I think you’ve caught my sense of unease.Mezrich shares the history of the project, including the work by Nikita Zimov in Northern Siberia, determining that wooly mammoths seemed to have played a role in preserving the permafrost levels of the tundra, by upturning the soil and exposing lower layers to the freezing temperatures. His father, Sergey Zimov, apparently theorized that reestablishing animal herds that roamed Siberia earlier in human history might play a role in keeping escaping carbon and methane, now sequestered in permafrost, from accelerating the speed at which the earth warms. The fact that woolly mammoth remains are discovered regularly now in thawing and melting ice and snow of the north is something I had not known. The ancient ivory from the tusks is not protected and is therefore an important source of income for hunters, sold in lieu of protected elephant tusks, for the same reasons, to the same buyers. The scientists involved in the story at one of the Church labs at Harvard are fascinating individuals in their own right, each with a backstory that only fuels our interest. The project has been going on long enough now that the twenty-something personnel involved at the beginning of the project are turning it over to others, younger ones still, to ensure continuity of skills on such a forward-looking project. The whole concept and execution of the mammoth idea is sufficiently…mammoth…and complex enough to make readers feel as though they have been subtly changed by the experience.(view spoiler)[The real life story ends with woolly mammoth DNA implanted in an elephant cell. Dr. Frank Church, the originator of this project, to his credit, decides not to use elephants to gestate the beast that might develop, but to construct a synthetic uterus. That is currently underway. Stay tuned. (hide spoiler)]
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  • Joseph
    April 16, 2017
    Woolly: The True Story of the De-Extinction of One of History’s Most Iconic Creatures by Ben Mezrich is the story of Dr. Church and his colleague's advancements in genome engineering. Mezrich graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Social Studies from Harvard University in 1991. Some of his books have been written under the pseudonym, Holden Scott. He is best known for Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions and The Accidental Billionaires: Th Woolly: The True Story of the De-Extinction of One of History’s Most Iconic Creatures by Ben Mezrich is the story of Dr. Church and his colleague's advancements in genome engineering. Mezrich graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Social Studies from Harvard University in 1991. Some of his books have been written under the pseudonym, Holden Scott. He is best known for Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions and The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding Of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal.I probably would not have picked this book up if I had known it was narrative fiction. The book is written in novel form and the reader is left to believe or not believe what is written. There is a small section of cited works but nothing is footnoted. Optionally there the reader could look up each bit of questionable information and fact check on their own. That is what I did and what I looked up did check out. This was mostly limited to events and people in the book and not conversation and smaller details. George M. Church is the leader of the project that is working on brings back the wooly mammoth. The book traces his life from childhood to the present with all the ups and downs of a normal life. Both his accomplishments and his failures make him the person who he is today and a person willing to take a chance on projects and people. He is also very well respected in the scientific community. Instead of operating in secret, Church chooses to share information. This also allows him to collect on favors. Several of his students are also portrayed in the book and details of their varied backgrounds. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is work being done in Siberia on permafrost. A part of northern Russia (and Canada) contain a permanently frozen layer of earth. It was once thought that if the permafrost thawed it would be suitable for farming. The current findings, however, seem to show the opposite. If the earth warms up enough to thaw the permafrost, the release of methane from the thawing permafrost would be catastrophic. The permafrost would release up to twice as much carbon dioxide and methane that is currently in the atmosphere. This ties into the Wooly Mammoth's planned de-extinction. Mezrich writes an interesting thriller which would fit in well with the much mentioned Michael Creighton or another novelist of that genre. It would seem hard to make DNA and genome engineering exciting for the non-scientific reader but Woolly reads like a thriller. There is even two chapter that takes place in the future that lends to the thought this is a work of fiction. With that exception of the previous point, all the information appears to be legitimate. An interesting and thought provoking read on the advancement of science. Available July 4, 2017
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  • Laura
    May 24, 2017
    The story told in this book was fascinating, but I found the creative nonfiction method employed in telling it waaaay too creative. I actually spent the first thirty pages or so trying to make sure the book was actually nonfiction at all. Some Googling proved that, yes, these people are real and are actually doing what the book purports- attempting to de-extinct the woolly mammoth through cutting edge genetic engineering. Fascinating. But the book seemed in such a rush to be fascinating and to s The story told in this book was fascinating, but I found the creative nonfiction method employed in telling it waaaay too creative. I actually spent the first thirty pages or so trying to make sure the book was actually nonfiction at all. Some Googling proved that, yes, these people are real and are actually doing what the book purports- attempting to de-extinct the woolly mammoth through cutting edge genetic engineering. Fascinating. But the book seemed in such a rush to be fascinating and to set up scenes for the already-optioned movie that it failed to come across as serious. There were even scenes set in the future, after a woolly mammoth has supposedly been created and born. I wanted a bit less creativity and narrative and a few more facts, maybe a footnote or a reference. Intriguing but ultimately too superficial to be satisfying.
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  • Jennifer
    July 4, 2017
    Literally this was my fantasy while ignoring the teachers in AP bio. I have wanted a woolly mammoth since I was a little girl, and I am 100% on board for this.#thedreamlives
  • Melissa Embry
    July 9, 2017
    As a fan of all things Pleistocene, Ben Mezrich’s book jumped out at me from a display table at Dallas’ newest independent bookstore, Interabang Books. How could I resist a title like Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures? True, even fans of woolly mammoths (you didn’t think the book was about sheep, did you?) know only too well that the great Ice Age beasts no longer walk the earth. But until – if – living mammoths can be cloned or otherwis As a fan of all things Pleistocene, Ben Mezrich’s book jumped out at me from a display table at Dallas’ newest independent bookstore, Interabang Books. How could I resist a title like Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures? True, even fans of woolly mammoths (you didn’t think the book was about sheep, did you?) know only too well that the great Ice Age beasts no longer walk the earth. But until – if – living mammoths can be cloned or otherwise brought to life, we can feed our hopes with the possible ways that might happen.The book’s cover notes, soon to be a major motion picture, and Mezrich’s mosaic of opening scenes consciously mirror those of that other major motion picture about extinct monstrous animals, Jurassic Park. Mezrich’s technique can, however, be disconcerting in book form, with readers forced to jump from the viewpoint of the very last living woolly mammoths 3,000 years ago to a hypothetical scene of the future of the 21st century; from the early childhood in steamy Florida of American geneticist George M. Church to a truck drive across the icy Siberian wilderness; and on and on.Scientifically minded readers should be warned that Mezrich (or his editors) can have a cavalier way with words. Elk antlers are blithely referred to as “horns,” small herbivores as “omnivorous,” and musk oxen as hybrids of an ox, goat and sheep. (Or possibly as hybridizing with all three of these species. I can’t quite make out which Mezrich has in mind.) Less mammoth-infatuated readers may also wonder why anyone would spend the time (and money) to resurrect a long-extinct species when so many modern ones are in danger of extinction. Woolly tries to answer these skeptics, and in doing so skims through a host of stories as fascinating in their own right as any thriller.There’s the eccentric and dyslexic scientist Church, zoologist turned geneticist intent on re-engineering the genomes of creatures from rodents to humans to mammoths. Church, Mezrich writes, decided after visiting the 1964-1965 World’s Fair that he was a time traveler from the future, desperate to find his way back. And his wife, Chao-ting Wu (Ting to her friends), a Chinese immigrant whose race, sex, and yes, marriage blocked her scientific career path for years.Or Stewart Brand, founder of the iconoclastic bible, Whole Earth Catalogue, and his wife, biotech entrepreneur Ryan Phelan, have dedicated themselves to resurrecting extinct species. (In an afterword to Woolly, Brand reports that the first proxy passenger pigeons may be alive as early as 2022.) Other leading candidates for revival, he writes, include the Tasmanian tiger, New Zealand moas, and ivory-billed woodpecker. Most intriguing to me are Russians Nikita Zimov and his father Sergey, who for decades have worked to restore moss and lichen Arctic tundras to their Pleistocene lushness, which once supported vast herds of giant herbivores. Including woolly mammoths. The Zimovs’ dream doesn’t involve resurrecting extinct species for their own sake, but using restored Arctic grasslands to halt global warming. (The Zimovs believe the tread of large herbivore hoofs makes the upper permafrost area of soil more amenable to the growth of grass.)So, even without living woolly mammoths, there would be plenty to report. Woolly, however, fails to deliver adequately on these promises. Near the beginning, and again near the end, Mezrich tempts readers with possible views of mammoths four years from today. . . and three years from today. Maybe he hopes that by the time of the cover’s promised “major motion picture” materializes, there will be more to show.
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  • Melissa
    July 12, 2017
    DNFI thought this was suppose to be a nonfiction book. Instead I found myself confused on why a nonfiction book was reading like a fictional story. The topic is one I would love to know more about but without the fictional element included.
  • Danny Cerullo
    June 30, 2017
    It took a couple chapters, but I'm in. I'm a convert. Let's bring that Mammoth back. In Woolly, Ben Mezrich follows teams of scientists attempting to resurrect the Woolly Mammoth and details how they aim to do it and the ramifications of their possible success. It's not all man's hubris either, the benefits of bringing back this extinct animal could help curb the effects of climate change and may inadvertently lead to an eradication of a vicious strand of herpes threatening to wipe out the Asian It took a couple chapters, but I'm in. I'm a convert. Let's bring that Mammoth back. In Woolly, Ben Mezrich follows teams of scientists attempting to resurrect the Woolly Mammoth and details how they aim to do it and the ramifications of their possible success. It's not all man's hubris either, the benefits of bringing back this extinct animal could help curb the effects of climate change and may inadvertently lead to an eradication of a vicious strand of herpes threatening to wipe out the Asian Elephant population. It also tackles the inevitable Jurassic Park comparison head on and takes care to explain why this is not the same thing, and the science in that famous novel is ridiculous anyway. This book reads quickly and it's a fascinating study of how far we've come scientifically and how far we still may be able to go.
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  • Kate Zdenek
    June 13, 2017
    This is a fascinating look at the work being done to "revive" the Woolly Mammoth. Mr. Mezrich makes understanding the complex science behind this effort easy. It reads like a fast paced fiction thriller. I was a little confused as to what was fact or fiction in the first couple of chapters because I came into this knowing nothing about the project and had to look up some facts. This might not have been the case if I was reading a paper copy instead of an ebook and could have flipped back a few p This is a fascinating look at the work being done to "revive" the Woolly Mammoth. Mr. Mezrich makes understanding the complex science behind this effort easy. It reads like a fast paced fiction thriller. I was a little confused as to what was fact or fiction in the first couple of chapters because I came into this knowing nothing about the project and had to look up some facts. This might not have been the case if I was reading a paper copy instead of an ebook and could have flipped back a few pages as I was reading. I think anyone with an interest in science or nature would enjoy reading this book.I received a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review
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  • Elisa
    June 14, 2017
    A fascinating look into how science fiction becomes science thanks to people who don't believe that anything is impossible (what's impossible today may not be impossible tomorrow). What we humans have been doing for centuries to destroy the world, a few may be able to reverse. How? By writing the DNA of extinct creatures. This books centers on the Woolly Mammoth, but it also mentions other species of birds or even wolves. It doesn't avoid the ethical implications (do we have the right to extermi A fascinating look into how science fiction becomes science thanks to people who don't believe that anything is impossible (what's impossible today may not be impossible tomorrow). What we humans have been doing for centuries to destroy the world, a few may be able to reverse. How? By writing the DNA of extinct creatures. This books centers on the Woolly Mammoth, but it also mentions other species of birds or even wolves. It doesn't avoid the ethical implications (do we have the right to exterminate a whole species of mosquitoes to prevent malaria? Would it be OK to create a synthetic human or resurrect the Neanderthal?) and the technical aspects are simplified enough for the most science-phobe. But, over all, the characters - who are real people, are simply amazing. The story is novelized and reads like fiction, so it's entertaining and fun. I can't wait to visit Pleistocene Park!I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/Atria Books!
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  • Janet Blake
    July 13, 2017
    Fascinating!This book is so not my style. But I read an intriguing description of it so decided to give it a whirl. I'm glad I did. VERY current, very interesting cutting edge technology being used to try to save the planet. A reviewer said that the author was a little loose with the creativity, this is true. But with an afterword by the protagonist, it can't be too far, right?How Science and Nature work together to save the planet.
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  • Cat
    May 13, 2017
    I'm not a scientist, but am into science in a casual way and take an interest in cloning, among other interests. I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review, and believe I can give one. I found this book interesting and informative. I wonder if a mammoth should be cloned and wonder about what else might be possible to be cloned in the future. Particularly extinct creatures... Not too difficult a read, insightful and informative.
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  • Dylan
    July 7, 2017
    As a fan of the woolly mammoth, I was very excited the see this book available for pre-order. I'm sorry to report that it ended up being somewhat disappointing because it's less about the woolly mammoth than it is about the current state of genetic engineering. A fascinating topic which I'm glad I read about, I was looking forward to the mammoths, y'know?
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  • Ernie Pelletier
    July 15, 2017
    Come for the Woolly Mammoths, stay for the genetics and scientific research. In a country that seems to no longer value education and science, it is encouraging to read about people pushing the boundaries of scientific inquiry, and redefining what is possible.
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  • Victor Gonzalez
    July 14, 2017
    The science is absolutely mind blowing, but Mezrich's dialogue is a bigger stretch than Dr. Church's quest to revive the wooly mammoth. Nevertheless, a great read.
  • Rosann
    April 26, 2017
    My personal test as a science person reading science non-fiction: Is it serious, is it readable and enjoyable, is it accessible to non-science readers.......this title passes all of my tests.
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