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Review: The Brothers Cro-Magnon by Roger Pepper

The Brothers Cro-Magnon

We’re all clay, created by evolution and molded by life on Earth.” – Dr. Stu Uhlig, The Brothers Cro-Magnon

“The tissue cut clearly shows blood vessels with strong walls. Inside the vessels there is haemolysed blood, where for the first time we have found erythrocytes. Muscle and adipose tissues are well preserved. We have also obtained very well visualised migrating cells of the lymphoid tissue, which is another great discovery. The upper part of the carcass has been eaten by animals, yet the lower part with the legs and, astonishingly, the trunk are very well preserved.” – Viktoria Egorova, chief of the Research and Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory of the Medical Clinic of North-Eastern Federal University

 

She was thrown away like trash. A simple Neanderthal woman, she was gang raped – probably by the new dominant species to come along, the Cro-Magnon. Modern man’s predecessor – and just as vicious. They finished with her, then they threw her into a crevasse where she died and froze, the sperm of her rapists frozen on her thighs. We can’t, of course, know what her name was, or if she even had one. So they called her Galine – God Has Redeemed. Her rape, her cold and lonely death, were not the last of the indignities heaped upon her. No. Bureaucracy had the dubious pleasure of heaping ignominy upon her poor corpse. They burned her. Ah well, maybe that is for the best. To be placed in a glass case and stared at by the ignorant and unwashed would perhaps have been even worse. But the last, the worst humiliation of all?

Some of the sperm is alive. It is viable.

And it has been used for insemination.

What could possibly go wrong?

Now Catherine “Corky” Mason is in Khatanga, right up near the North Pole. Quite a change from her last ten year posting in the Middle East. Which is worse? Heat exhaustion and sand in your panties, or freezing the skin off your body in 90 below with a stiff wind? Seeing as how her luggage is lost in Moscow, well, you get the picture.

In Khatanga at the urging of her editor at the New York Herald, Corky is theoretically on A threatened Northern spotted owl in a fresh clear-cut.vacation, but she is also there to write a story about the cloning of a perfect mammoth specimen retrieved from the Siberian ice. The actual request came from a “crazy” Russian paleontologist named Zuyev. A man who has an unhealthy interest in Corky – an interest that soon turns deadly. For Zuyev is convinced that Corky is the only sister of four very special brothers; Cro-Magnon brothers, born from the sperm of Galine’s rapists. Brothers who have a lot in common with their sadistic sperm donors. The hubris of man, the reach for glory, for fame, for ones name to carry through the centuries. But to what effect?

Cro-Magnon skeleton
Photo courtesy of Sciencephoto.com Yes, the Cro-Magnon people buried their dead.

The Brothers Cro-Magnon  has its plusses and minuses. I was absolutely captivated by the concepts of the story. The work on the Vindija-80 (Vi-80) sample led to the first viable steps in unraveling Neanderthal genomics. Today, the Neanderthal genome is an abstract string of billions of DNA letters stored in computer databases”. But that doesn’t mean that it will stay that way. As for the mammoth cloning? In May of 2013 scientists from the Siberian Northeastern Federal University unearthed an absolutely amazing find. On Maly Lyakhovsky Island they found the corpse of a mammoth in the permafrost. A An autopsy of the huge creature - nicknamed Buttercup - will be shown in a Channel 4 documentary later this monthcorpse which, “During excavations, the carcass oozed a dark red liquid that may have been fresh mammoth blood. In fact, the mammoth meat was reportedly fresh enough that one of the scientists took a bite of it.” The female mammoth, nicknamed Buttercup, lived about 40,000 years ago. And she was so well preserved, she actually bled.

So, Roger Pepper has his science pat, though a bit ahead of its time. What bothered me, what always bothers me, is the rough, very rough, editorial work. It would have been much better if the prose was tightened up, and especially if the continuity, logic and flow were handled by a good editor. It was frustrating and dragged me out of the story more than I like. Otherwise? A solid entry into the pseudoscientific. A worthwhile read for anyone who finds the subject matter interesting.

About The Author:

Roger Thomas Pepper

Roger Pepper is the author of three novels, The Brothers Cro-Magnon, When Ice Ran Red and Davide, which are listed on Goodreads, and can be viewed on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDkXV…

Now a mainstream author, he withdrew from a successful career in science to follow his lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist. An Associate of the British Institution of Metallurgists, Roger went to postgraduate school at Manchester University in the United Kingdom, where he was awarded his Ph.D.

Roger is the coauthor of a patent on the development of the metal composite material used for the antenna of the Hubble Space Telescope. He began writing in his spare time while serving as the Director of Research of an Aerospace Materials Company in the United States.

His memoir, My Father The Viking, won 3rd Prize in the 2006 Linda Joy Myers Memoir Competition of the National League of American Pen Women, a competition open to published and unpublished works. He received an Honorable Mention for an earlier version of the first 50 pages of the The Brothers Cro-Magnon from a contest run by the Speculative Literature Foundation.

Roger is a member of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance and the New Hampshire Writers Project. He is a co-organizer of the Portland Writers Group (350 members), and the host of their monthly evening writing workshops. Tess Gerritsen acknowledged him in her bestselling medical thriller, Harvest, for providing research materials.

With friends from the Appalachian Mountain Club, Roger hiked in the Austrian and Italian

Alps, traveled in France and Israel, and trekked in the Kangchenjunga and Annapurna Himalayan regions of Nepal, the Tien Shan [mountains/Mountains] of the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia.

He now writes full time and lives in Maine.

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Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

Ancient societies had anthropomorphic gods: a huge pantheon expanding into centuries of dynastic drama; fathers and sons, martyred heroes, star-crossed lovers, the deaths of kings – stories that taught us of the danger of hubris and the primacy of humility. – Tom Hiddleston

‘Cause suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
…and you can do the same thing if you choose.
MAS*H – Johnny Mandel Lyrics

Hubris and science are incompatible. – Douglas Preston

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. – Benjamin Franklin

 

Let’s face it. Matthew Reilly is the reigning King of the high-octane, over-the-top action/adventure novel. From Ice Station, my first Reilly novel, to Scarecrow and his other novels, he is the master of the “literary 400 mph bullet train” story. And here, he does it again.

The Great Zoo of China appears at first to be simply Jurassic Park on steroids. Human hubris, taken to extremes, as humans endeavor to create a monstrous (literally) exhibit to shock and awe the world. And, like so many other human endeavors, this bit of human hubris is destined to destroy the world – unless a small group can stop the insanity.

Meddle Not In The Affairs Of Dragons For You Are Crunchy
And Taste Good With Ketchup

There are many things to love about The Great Zoo of China. Reilly has, as usual, done his homework on the background and politics of the story. Utilizing the political, economic and sociological quirks and horrors of Chinese growth and development, Reilly has layered complex ideas and issues with the aforementioned political intrigue and a heavy dose of scientific development to create a story that is actually much more interesting than Jurassic Park. Todays ‘new’ China, is all about the Money, as the country utilizes near slave-wage conditions to create massive new cities, dams, basically anything they need – no matter the cost. And here, they do it again, reaching for the spectacular ‘money-is-no-object’ outcome they are reaching for . . . but Reilly makes a pinpoint observation. The Chinese have the cold, hard cash. But what they don’t have, after generations of communist control, is the ability to think and create. They can build, but their inability to create means that they also cannot think ahead, cannot foresee all possible outcomes. And what they cannot foresee is the intelligence of the creatures they consider ‘less’ – and again, that hubris, that condescension, makes the story even more fascinating than a normal Reilly tale. Yes, it is fast and furious – but it is also thoughtful, and a smart statement of today’s worldwide political and economic climate.

Besides. It has a female lead – CJ Cameron is one smart lady, one of my favorite heroines of the books I have read in the last couple of years.

Highly recommended! I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. I really enjoyed it, and hope you do as well. Publication date January 27, 2015.

Review: The Midnight Side By Natasha Mostert

midnightside
Originally published in 2000. Republished for Kindle by Portable Magic, 2013.
Click for the goodreads page.

How much worse are suitors, who to men’s lust
Are made preys? O, worse than dust or worms’ meat,
For they do eat you now, whose selves worms shall eat. – John Donne, Thou shalt not laugh in this leaf, Muse (British Poet, Satirist, Author, 1572-1631)

The sin of pride may be a small or a great thing in someone’s life, and hurt vanity a passing pinprick, or a self-destroying or ever murderous obsession. – Iris Murdoch (British Novelist and Philosopher, 1919-1999)

We’re going to start a rumour. It’s easy: here’s how. And thus starts a tale of twisted obsession, of ghostly presence and lucid dreaming. A tale of suffering. But whose? And how far will obsession live within the soul? To the grave? Beyond?

Too late hee would the paine asswage,
And to thick shadowes does retire;
About with him hee beares the rage,
And in his tainted blood the fire.
Edmund Waller –The selfe-banished –  (English Poet and Politician,1606 – 1687)

Isabella, or Isa to her friends, lives a life of quiet desperation in South Africa. The mistress of a married man for the past thirteen years, Isa has set aside her own needs for those of her lover, Eric. Eric, who has just died, leaving her with nothing but heartache.

In the night, as she lies dreaming, the phone rings, a flat, atonal sound, odd and strangely off-key, and the crackling voice of her cousin, Alette comes through. Alette, the wild and flighty girl with whom Isa was raised. Alette the strong, Alette the vibrant. And, as Isa is soon to learn, Alette who is two days dead.

Now back in London to close Allete’s estate, Isa receives a message from Allete along with a copy of her will. A very odd and devastating message, which leads Isa to carry out a twisted scheme against Jason, Allete’s ex-husband – an ex-husband whose tortures Allete lays out in a letter, sealed for only Isa.

Lucid dreaming, African mysticism. Alchemy and premonitions. Mostert’s The Midnight Side is a brooding, atmospheric tale of suspense and psychological thrill, full of the kinds of fear and gloomy atmosphere sure to lure in even the most jaded of readers. Isa wanders through the halls of her dreams, following orders, reaching out . . . and changing within herself. The Vigyan Bhairava Tantra, the seventh sutra, says, “ . . . reach the heart at the instant of sleep and seek direction over dreams and over death itself.” Is Isabella following her heart? Or are the dreams of death drawing back the soul of her beloved cousin?

What cruelty, wasted love – love which lies only in recompense? Mostert speaks to deep waters of the mind, dark corners of the soul, the ruin brought on by wounded and damaged souls. And yet, her journey also showcases the beauty and drabery of London itself, with it’s fogs and rains, the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery of the British Museum, the odd libraries and collections, the tea shops and cathedrals. The mass of cultures and foods and beliefs. A brooding city of history and blood and loss and joy, all wrapped up in banks of fog and fire, melancholy, and old, old guilt.

What Isa does and doesn’t do, thinks and feels and suffers leads you through murky darkness, fear, and the question, or promise, of forbidden destiny.

I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.  Highly recommended.

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