Review: Extinction by Douglas Preston

cover of ExtinctionExtinction by Douglas Preston
Forge Books (April 23, 2024)
384 pages; $20.99 hardcover; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

For those who have read the thrilling Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, it’s apparent that Preston knows how to roll out a successful high-concept thriller that often borders on horror. This dark thriller might just have cemented itself in many top ten reads of the year, especially for those who enjoy some science and beasties in their reading.

The cover boasts a woolly mammoth — that’s enough for many, yet it’s only the tip of the Jurassic Park-ish concept.

Genetic engineering is horrific in theory as it is; to bring it to actual life crosses the boundary into playing God and tempting the wrath of screwing up a science that is only just beginning. Preston loves to play in the dark often in his inventive novels and while this might evoke a bit of Michael Crichton, it focuses more on the characters and plot than on the inner workings of DNA strands.

The story starts off in similar territory: people with too much money need new entertainment, so the founders of Erebus Resort feed the Darwin Awards recommendations in full — and then some. The ethics of genetic engineers is a burning topic in society as people are realizing that much of what has been displayed in film and books is no longer on the horizon — it’s here and it’s freaking scary to ponder what billionaires might accomplish. The setting is perfect: the Colorado Rockies. For a fee that eclipses what most families (and businesses) make in a decade, the wealthy stay in a resort where woolly mammoths, giant sloths, Irish elk, and other “safe” creations roam the grounds.

Obviously, things are much different and dangerous behind the curtain.

Where Preston excels is in his people. They bring the magic to life. CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigations) agent Frances Cash arrives at Erebus to look into the disappearance of newlyweds who had been camping on the grounds (was Darwin mentioned already?). She must work with Sheriff James Colcord, a juxtaposition in personalities that immediately creates a tangible friction that becomes an enjoyable part of the novel as methods and philosophies in law enforcement differ greatly. Yet how Preston weaves the two into the plot and the mystery of what’s actually happening at Erebus elevates Extinction into what most thrillers aim to reach.

To say more would ruin the suspense and the ride the author creates but that semi-blind experience one enters into the story will likely provide a rewarding payoff. The twists and turns aren’t easy to track as Preston has studied the best and cultivated a style that epitomizes that “edge of your seat” motif.

Extinction is highly recommended for several reasons, from sheer entertainment to the horror of the reality humans face today.

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