Book Review: “Extinction” by Douglas Preston

Keep that shirt. It’ll eventually come back in fashion.
So many things do: roller skating and yo-yos, for instance. Car features and furniture styles. Wide paisley ties, bell bottom jeans, vintage tees, and cat-glasses, those occasional darlings of fashionistas and there we go. So keep that shirt, it’ll eventually come back – although, as in the new novel, “Extinction” by Douglas Preston, returns aren’t always a good thing.
When the phone rang before the sun was up, Frankie Cash was instantly awake.
Nothing good comes from a predawn phone call, but this one was good and bad. For the first time, Cash was tapped to be the Agent in Charge of a case for her employer, the Colorado Bureau of Investigations’ Major Crimes Division. The bad news: the son and daughter-in-law of a very wealthy man were missing.
They had been on their dream honeymoon, a guided hiking-camping trip in Colorado’s Erebus Mountains, at a private resort where woolly mammoths, giant sloths, and other Pleistocene herbivores had been de-extincted by scientists working in laboratories located inside abandoned mines. The animals had been genetically-modified to remove any aggressiveness. Cash could see that the creatures roamed around the mountains where guests could spot them from afar, like some kind of prehistoric photo-op.
The couple were fit and comfortable with the kind of activity needed to hike in high altitudes. Their guide insisted they were nice people. Now they were missing.
It didn’t make sense.
But Agent Cash noted blood on the ground, spread in a wide area – blood loss, as it turned out, that was inconsistent with life. Predators? No, Erebus assured the CBI that the compound was protected from modern predators, but drones indicated via thermal imaging that there were invaders in the mountains, and they were organized.
The CBI figured they were looking for six, maybe nine killers, and the killers were smart – smart enough to bring down a drone.
Smart enough that when Cash and another agent went to retrieve a busted drone, the killers stalked them…
The science, says author Douglas Preston in his afterword, is real and he seems to hint that his story – at least some of it – could actually happen someday soon. You should take that maybe as cold comfort while you’re careening through “Extinction.”
For now, just know that you’re safe – as safe as you’re going to be with a thriller like this one in your lap, one you could treat it as a someday-potentially true crime tale that pushes the envelope of morality in ways you won’t expect. It’s majestic and horrifying, both, but to further muddle things, Preston also speaks to the heart of science fiction lovers here with (at the risk of being a spoiler) the slightest whiff of a classic Pierre Boulle novel.
Don’t cheat and look that up. Instead, look for this delicious, sometimes gory, don’t-try-to-solve-it-early novel that feels as real as the pounding heartbeats you’ll get from reading it. Take your time to enjoy “Extinction.” It’s a book you’ll gladly come back to.


Forge $29.99,

384 pages