(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A nominee for a Hugo Award for The Time Ships (1995), one of his previous science fiction novels, Stephen Baxter presents in Silverhair the conflict between the last of a species of animal thought to be extinct (wooly mammoth) and its worst enemy, humans (or the “Lost,” as the mammoths call them).

The story centers on Silverhair, a young cow in a small family of wooly mammoths on an island off the northern coast of Russia. Once a missile site, the island was safe from intruders, but when the site is abandoned, and a gang of smugglers is ship-wrecked on the island, the mammoths face a greater threat than their dwindling gene-pool.

The mammoths spend much of their time scrounging for food and water in the harsh landscape. But Silverhair has a curiosity most of the others do not, and she makes several forays to the coast facing the mainland. Because of this, the smugglers become aware of the mammoths and hunt them down. Led by a bald drunk Skin-of-Ice, as Silverhair calls him, and less for food than ivory, they kill the matriarch of the family, Owlheart, the senior bull, Eggtusk, and Silverhair's aunt Snagtooth, and capture Silverhair's older sister Foxeye and her calves Croptail and Sunfire, and the young bull Lop-ear, the father of Silverhair's unborn calf Icebones.

The Cycle, the fifty-million-year-old memory of the mammoths, teaches them how to survive, but it takes the likes of Silverhair to figure out new...

(The entire section is 415 words.)