Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Review of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble

Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble is a wonderful novel written by D. Robert Pease.  It’s set in the future and tells of 12 year-old Noah, a paraplegic boy who lives with his family on a large spaceship called the Arc.  Told from Noah’s point of view, he introduces us to his family: sister Sam, brother Hamilton, father Noah Sr., mother Hannah and his dog, Obadiah.  The family has a special mission: to go back in time to retrieve specimens of extinct animals and bring them forward to the future.  This is imperative, thanks to humans finally causing the complete depletion of natural resources on Earth in the 24th century and inhabiting Mars and Venus.  Earth has finally recovered enough for animals to once again live upon the planet so the Zarcs are collecting two of each species from the past.

All is not well, as we find out when Noah’s parents go back to Earth’s last Ice Age, to retrieve a rare deer.  They are ambushed by Haon, a malcontent who doesn’t want the animals to have Earth, humans should.  He attacks Noah Sr. and kidnaps Hannah, to hold her and her vast biological knowledge hostage to his demands that the humans on Venus (who live in deplorable conditions) be allowed to repopulate Earth, instead of the animals the family has collected.

Sam, Hamilton and Noah succeed in rescuing their father by taking the Arc back to the Ice Age and make the acquaintance of a group of Neolithic people who live in the area, after their smaller ship, the Morning Star, is attacked by a mastodon and has to be destroyed in defense of the ship and the people who have taken in Noah Sr.

Noah makes friends with Adina, a girl about his age, while helping with butchering the mastodon for the people’s food storage and for a feast.  He is both astonished and horrified at the conditions they live in and how quickly people age due to their harsh lives in the cold climate.  He wants to help Adina in some way but the only thing he can think to do is give her his coat before he leaves for good in the morning.

The family leaves Ice Age Earth and pursues Haon back to Mars 3024 A.D.  Noah is amazed and astonished to find a stowaway: Adina!  He had forgotten that he had left an identification device in his coat pocket and she was able to use it to hide onboard the Morning Star before it left.  She reiterates that she has no family and no future, preferring to take her chances with the Zarc family.

From there, things move pretty quickly but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.  This is a wonderful book, told well and with few misspellings or grammatical errors.  The writing is tight, with all the questions answered in just the right places.  The many technological terms were easily understood.

The one concern is Adina’s use of the term “meter” to indicate measurement, not long after she meets Noah.  I understand that Noah is wearing a translator and that may be what he heard and we are reading from his perspective but for the reader, it’s hard to imagine Neolithic people using that word as a form of measurement; they would have more likely used something like “fingers” or “hands.”  There are several other instances of Adina using very vague terms of measurement, “many” for more than five and “pride” for the length of a mastodon’s tusks, just not contemporary forms of measurement.

It’s also a bit bothersome to not know what the Poligarchy is and why that term was used to describe a ruling council for humans.  Although the term can easily be looked up, it would disrupt the reader’s focus.  A sentence or two about the Poligarchy and how/why it is called that would be welcome.

The Zarcs are personable characters, worth caring for and about.  It’s sad to see this as a stand-alone book; I think many folks would like to read more about Noah, Adina and the family, myself included.  There is very little violence and no vulgar language to speak of, so I can highly recommend this book for 14 years old and up.  It’s a keeper!

Update: Mr. Pease has told me that there WILL be a second Noah book so I am super-excited!

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