Review – Mammoths of the Great Plains

Cover of Mammoths of the Great Plains by Eleanor ArnasonMammoths of the Great Plains, Eleanor Arnason

I still need to read A Woman of the Iron People, which is the main work I’ve been recommended by Arnason. But I thought I’d read this on Scribd, since it was available and I find the Outspoken Authors series generally interesting. I was less interested in the interview and essay, though it’s interesting to know where Arnason comes from (in many senses!) and what her preoccupations are. I’m not sure how much general interest the essay has; certainly, if you’re not fond of non-fiction, I can’t imagine you’ll appreciate it.

The story itself is interesting: it’s alternate history, where mammoths survived into the last couple of centuries, and where humans drove them to extinction with hunting and tourism. The background of the Native American characters and customs was particularly cool, especially given the educated and successful Native American women at the heart of the story.

The contemplative tone is a bit Ursula Le Guin-ish, which I think Arnason says herself — and the structure, too, with the story within a story. It’s quite a slow narrative: not about things happening, so much as things that have happened, about the power humans have for good and bad (but usually bad) over our environment. I don’t know enough about Native American culture and belief to judge that aspect of the story: to me the ecological, intimate link with nature stuff seemed a little like an idealisation, more of the ‘noble savage’ persuasion than realism, but it doesn’t do so in a negative way and, like I said, I don’t know enough to judge.

Rating: 3/5

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2 thoughts on “Review – Mammoths of the Great Plains

  1. I don’t know what Arnason says, but some of the native American tribes practiced slash-and-burn agriculture which isn’t very harmonious with nature at all. Also, there’s a strong correlation between the arrival of humans in the Americas and the extinction of the mega-fauna species, although the theories about how and why that occurred are not as straight-forward as over-hunting.

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