Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rise of the Necrofauna by Britt Wray

Title: Rise of the Necrofauna
Author: Britt Wray
Genre: Nonfiction/Science
Published: September 30, 2017
Pages: 288


Jurassic Park meets The Sixth Extinction in Rise of the Necrofauna, a provocative look at de-extinction from acclaimed documentarist and science writer Britt Wray.

What happens when you bring a woolly mammoth back to life - fascinating science, or devastating catastrophe?

In Rise of the Necrofauna, Wray takes us deep into the minds and labs of some of the world's most progressive thinkers to find out. She introduces us to renowned futurists like Stewart Brand and scientists like George Church, who are harnessing the powers of CRISPR gene editing in the hopes of "reviving" extinct passenger pigeons, woolly mammoths, and heath hens. She speaks with Nikita Zimov, who together with his eclectic father Sergey, is creating Siberia's Pleistocene Park; a daring attempt to rebuild the mammoth's ancient ecosystem in order to save earth from climate apocalypse. Through interviews with these and other thought leaders, Wray reveals the many incredible opportunities for research and conservation made possible by this emerging new field.

But we also hear from more cautionary voices, like those of researcher and award-winning author Beth Shapiro (How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth) and extinction philosopher Thomas van Dooren. Writing with passion and perspective, Wray delves into the larger questions that come with this incredible new science, reminding us that de-extinction could bring just as many dangers as it does possibilities. What happens, for example, when we bring an "unextinct" creature back into the wild? How can we care for these strange animals and ensure their comfort and safety - not to mention our own? And what does de-extinction mean for those species that are currently endangered? Is it really ethical to bring back an extinct passenger pigeon, for example, when countless other birds today will face the same fate?

By unpacking the many biological, technological, ethical, environmental, and legal questions raised by this fascinating new field, Wray offers a captivating look at the best and worst of resurrection science.


This title is false advertising. I was looking for a good science fiction book to get me through a bad breakup (don't ask, it's just my method okay), when I picked up this book from the bookstore. Imagine my surprise when I started reading it to discover that it's freakin' non-fiction. I mean, sure, the fact that it was in the non-fiction section of the bookstore should have been a dead giveaway, but books are shelved wrong at the bookstore all the time. I mean, I found a Bible in the romance section just the other day. 

But I'm not a quitter, so since I'd started reading the book, I decided I ought to finish it, even though it was kind of dry and boring and didn't involve any dinosaurs eating unsuspecting park goers. Seriously, this book got my hopes up that there would be massive amounts of death and destruction and then it absolutely failed to deliver any of that. 

So since this book was full of really boring science talk and stuff, I've decided to call it educational and I'm now basically an expert in the science of de-extinction. Really, ask me anything about it and I can answer it, I promise. I learned so much about why certain kinds of birds should not be brought back (hello, we killed their food source too), and how wooly mammoths could replace tractors for farming (you're going to have to trust me on that one, or read the book yourself to prove me wrong). 

So even though the book was a major let-down from what I was expecting, I will give it 3.654 stars because I did learn some things and getting smarter is good. 

Buy the Book

About the Author

Britt Wray writes about recent advancements in genetic and genomic sciences that allow humans to not only study life at a molecular scale, but directly shape it as well. Voraciously curious and inquisitive, Wray's writing drills into the cultural questions that surround new biotechnologies in order to weave what she discovers into lively narratives for non-specialist audiences.  

Wray's first book - Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics and Risks of De-Extinction – is about a new scientific movement that aims to bring extinct species back to life, and is published by Greystone Books and the David Suzuki Institute. The foreword is written by George Church of Harvard University and MIT, who is using genome-editing techniques to create woolly mammoth traits in elephant cells in his lab. 

Wray holds a BSc. in Biology from Queens' University, MA in Media from OCAD University, and is a PhD candidate in Science Communication at the University of Copenhagen. Wray has been a visiting scholar at New York University's Arthur L Carter Journalism Institute, and is a presenter and producer on several radio programs and podcasts that have aired on BBC and CBC.

Alternate Reviews

Being lazy (also it's possible I won't find bloggers that have reviewed this particular title), so please fend for yourself and find legitimate reviews on your own. Thanks. 

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