Mammoth by Chris Flynn

1.First lines. 2. Published 2020 University of Queensland Press 3. Exhuming the First American Mastodon. By Charles Willson Peale [Public Domain] via Wikimedia.

An extinct mammoth relates his story to a collection of other extinct fossils that are for sale at auction in 2007. He tells the story of his life, his extinction, and the continuing story of his fossil bones as they are dug up in the 19th century, parts being displayed in a travelling exhibition and then being auctioned.


“When carnivorous donkeys roamed the earth! Terrifying! This ass will eat your ass!

“The year is 1802. The month is May. We find ourselves midway across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the packet ship Chimera. Although the majority of my skeleton is housed within crates stuffed with hay, stowed for safekeeping in the hold of the ship, my skull and tusks have been mounted on a long table in the middle of the saloon.”

“… what with the pterodactyl’s reports on Nazi torture techniques and your habit of finishing stories with death and destruction, this whole tale you’re spinning is enough to make a tyrannosaurus dive headfirst into the nearest tar pit.”

My opinion:

Such an inventive story, and so entertaining. The surprising ending has a message of hope for the future of the world.

The opinion of others:
  • The Aureview: “A wildly compelling and imaginative read, full of wit, humour and intelligence. Flynn has managed to neatly balance the story’s historical and scientific elements, along with valid criticisms of the chequered past of human history, all without sacrificing the novel’s warmth and charm.”
  • The Guardian: “In an ambitious, hilarious, clever beast of a novel, Chris Flynn excavates the strange fascination powerful men have for big pets.”

Chris Flynn

Historical note:

The mammoth in this story is Mammut, an animal that lived in Central and North America from about 5 million years ago, up to their extinction about 10,000 years ago. The first recorded fossil of Mammut was found in New York State in 1705. Many fossils have been found and studied scientifically, and this new species was the subject of much debate throughout the nineteenth century. They were a curiosity to most people, and became an obsession to many, including the third President of the USA, Thomas Jefferson.

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