Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction

Bloomsbury. Jan. 2017. 304p. illus. index. ISBN 9781472912251. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781472912282. SCI
Can science use genetic engineering to resurrect extinct species, and should it even try? Science writer Pilcher (, formerly Nature) answers with delightfully comprehensible prose. Pilcher traces how scientists recover ancient DNA, map and edit genomes, and clone animals. Though the explanations feel feather-light, the nontechnical language occasionally slips into sloppiness. The author does not call the Cretaceous/Tertiary (Paleogene) Extinction by name and labels 80-million-year-old fossils Jurassic rather than Cretaceous. Digressions about her own pregnancy and Elvis kitsch add little, while the ethical arguments are sometimes inconsistent or incomplete. Pilcher mentions deextinction's possible ecological consequences but advocates disrupting an established ecosystem to transform arctic tundra into grassland. She lauds zoo veterinarian Thomas Hildebrandt for harvesting ova from rhinos yet opposes creating a similar technique for elephants. And she dismisses human cloning with a few authorities' pronouncements, even though the procedure has advocates and is not banned in the United States. This title competes with M.R. O'Connor's Resurrection Science, Ed Regis and George M. Church's Regenesis, and Beth Shapiro's How To Clone a Mammoth.
VERDICT Sadly, this extremely nontechnical approach to genetic manipulation's wonders fails to stand out in a crowded field.
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