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The Pleistocene Redemption
Dan Gallagher Press, 389 pages

Art: Chuck Hathaway The Pleistocene Redemption
Dan Gallagher
Dan Gallagher was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1959. He completed requirements for bachelor degrees in Economics and Modern Languages at Virginia Military Institute, and received his MA in Business Administration from The College of William and Mary. He is a Registered Securities Principal and a former Army Ranger with mechanized, Airborne, and classified Special Forces experience. His interests include biology, comparative religion and paleontology. Dan Gallagher resides with his wife Laura and their three children in Virginia.

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A review by A.L. Sirois

Billed as "Science Fiction" and as a "Spiritual Thriller," The Pleistocene Redemption succeeds by the skin of its teeth as the former and not at all as the latter. This novel contains many well-wrought passages concerning genetic speculations of one type or another. These may past scientific muster, as far as I am concerned, but my primary requirements in a novel are a good story and intriguing, sympathetic characters. This book has neither.

Set over a range of years from 1998 to 2019, the story is really just another take on Jurassic Park, but with less verisimilitude. A means (or maybe more than one; it's a little unclear) of extracting ancient DNA is discovered. Rather than conjuring up dinosaurs, Gallagher goes after Pleistocene fauna such as mammoths, giant sloths, and so on -- up to and including Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals. Just to put more spin on the ball, yetis are thrown into the mix, but palmed off as gigantopithicus lloyd, named after the character in the book who discovered them. It's all a bit too much, frankly, as if the author suspects that something is wrong with the book but keeps piling on the ideas in hopes of covering up the faults. The theme is pretty clearly "there are some things Man was not meant to know," which is fine, if hoary.

Gallagher situates his Pleistocene Park in Iraq, of all places. The Iraqis provide a convenient cadre of bad guys, so most of them are killed. Gallagher doesn't rein in the violence; this book is punctuated with numerous stomach-churning set pieces, all of them way over the top. The resuscitated critters are all aggressive, savage and powerful, and every one of them seems to have a taste for killing modern humans and, in most cases, devouring them. Even the turtles are man-eaters!

However, all of this would be forgivable if the characters were good. They're not. Leaving aside the come-and-go dialects inflicted on various secondary characters, from Australians to Iraqis, the primary lead character, a former soldier named Kevin Harrigan, is a smug, ill-tempered chauvinist. His marriage, part way through the book, seems to mitigate some of his more distasteful characteristics, but he never ceases being headstrong and self-referential. His friend and associate Manfred Freund, whom Harrigan has known since their days at West Point, is -- ostensibly -- a religious man. Freund repeatedly declaims about his religious convictions and continually tries to get Harrigan to acknowledge the need for spirituality. Yet Freund essentially tosses his convictions aside for the opportunity to mass-produce Pleistocene life forms.

Neither one of these guys rings true. The changes they experience lack conviction. Time and again the book pays lip service to their development as characters, but in truth Gallagher really seems to have no idea what to do with them. He substitutes plot twists and action for genuine character development. (One action scene, involving a bouncing space shuttle, is unintentionally hilarious.) I really didn't care what happened to Harrigan or Freund or anyone else in The Pleistocene Redemption. In my book, that's a serious flaw. The larger ethical issues surrounding the regeneration of the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals are glanced at but remain unexplored in the face of interlocking disaster scenarios.

First novels are often weak, which is why they so often end up in the trunk. There's nothing wrong with this as a first novel. There's a lot wrong with it being pushed out into the marketplace, though, because it's only about 60% there as a work of art. I think the fact that it was self-published bears me out. I wish that I could have written something more positive.

Copyright © 1999 by A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois walks the walk, too. He's a longtime member of SFWA and currently serves the organization as webmaster for the SFWA BULLETIN. His personal site is at

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