The Mammoth Hunters - Jean M. Auel, Sandra Burr WARNING: This book has caused me a lot of heartache, and as I review it, I may end up in a ball of mush, blathering unintelligibly.

When we last left Ayla and Jondalar, they were returning to Jondalar's family, standing smiling as they met one of the Mamutoi. Now, Ayla is quivering in fear, afraid that this Other is going to see her and immediately know, somehow, that she lived with the Clan and hate her (this is only 1 of the many continuity conflicts in this story). Jondalar, being the perfect perfectness of perfect maleness (You do know, after all that Jondalar is "The Mother's Gift to Women"), assures her that the Mamutoi are good people, and the two hang out with the Mamutoi.

Before I start my ranting, I need to say the good things about this book or I will completely forget them and start censoring profanities. Firstly, Auel opens up her world and introduces us to the Mamutoi and their ways; describing different cultures, digging into the past and revealing it to the audience is Auel's strong suit, and it's nice to have her back in her element. At points, I was almost transported back to The Clan of the Cave Bear: learning how the Mamutoi hunt, make clothes, and go about their day-to-day lives; getting a peak into their religion; learning their social structure.

The plotline with Rydag was actually not that bad. It gave Ayla a way to see what her child might have been like, to explore the motherliness of her character. And finally, there are a lot more developed characters this time around--and characters that I actually liked (I don't think I cared for ANY of the characters in The Valley of Horses). My favorite was Ranec; he was such a jolly guy, so friendly, outgoing, clever, witty, and smart. It would have been interesting to see *tries to breath slowly* what would have happened if he had ended up with Ayla. I liked Deejee; Ayla hasn't had a chance to interact with many females, so it was great that she had a strong female friend. And many of the other clan were pretty well done.

Now that I've done my duty and said all the good things about this book, I can focus on the 75% of the crap that bugged the hell out of me and nearly broke me.

This book has all the stuff we saw in Valley of the Horses. We are treated to at least six really bad sex scenes (the wording in each is almost identical, the sex is uncomfortable and not sexy at all, the times people have sex is really odd). Auel steps away from the story to go into Textbook Mode, describing concepts these people would have no knowledge of (permafrost, homogeneous crystalline silica or flint, asides into what would happen thousands of years later, etc.). Ayla invents the needle, domesticates a Wolf cub, possesses shamanic powers that the Mamut (spiritual leader of the Mamutoi) encourages her to use to "see visions", and generally grows to be an even bigger Mary Sue than even the first two books made her out to be (and that is a feat, lemme tell you).

But none of those elements really compare to the most horrible thing that nearly destroyed all the good things this book had going for it. What did the most destruction to the goodness of this book was one of the absolute stupidest, most inane, childish, disgusting, vapid, retarded Big Misunderstandings in the world of Big Misunderstandings.

I can live with the info-dumping (even if it is terribly boring, distracting to the "plot", and way above the knowledge of the characters). I can even enjoy the really bad sex scenes in a MST3K way (if you enjoy reading about Jondalar's "manhood" and Ayla's "petals", this is your book). But when an author resorts to having her characters act like lobotomized chimpanzees in order to drive a plot that should have been wrapped up in no more than a chapter and probably more like a paragraph...I draw the line!

After Ayla and Jondalar meet up with the Mamutoi, almost immediately, Ranec wants the Perfect, Majestic, Mother-Incarnate Ayla. He eyeballs her, makes constant jokes about bedding her, and makes it so that generally everyone knows what he wants.

Well, everyone EXCEPT AYLA.

Eventually, the Mamutoi agree to adopt Ayla. At her adoption ceremony, Ranec kisses her and tells her he wants to bed her. Ayla, being raised as a Clan member to drop and spread 'em at a man's whim, agrees. Meanwhile, Jondalar stands in a corner and pouts and complains and whines, "How could she be going with another man when he was waiting for her? No woman had ever chosen someone else when he wanted her." Uh, Jondalar, don't you remember Ayla talking about how THAT IS HOW SHE'S BEEN TRAINED? Oh, right, it was just after having sex; you were asleep.

Normal human beings would approach each other after the incident and have it out. But nooooooooooooooooooooooo! Instead, Ayla and Jondalar begin a painful, stupid, nonsensical "falling out". They avoid each other, thinking the other doesn't care for them anymore. They stop having really bad sex (and talking about the origin of babies, which was a great disappointment to me, as I enjoyed counting the times in the last book that that topic appeared). They sleep on opposite sides of the bed. At one point, they fight over Ayla's adoption of a Wolf cub (cleverly named "Wolf"), and he moves out. All the while, they both have googly eyes for each other, lust after each other, dance around talking to each other...but never actually have the conversation that would fix this problem.

You know what's even worse? (Yes, I did say "worse".) I *MAYBE* could understand this happening if they were in a vacuum. But there is a whole TRIBE of people around them. And you know what?


All these supposedly "open" and "blunt" Mamutoi in the previous book (and even earlier in this book) SUDDENLY really respect private thoughts and REFUSE TO CLARIFY A SITUATION THAT WOULD TAKE TWO SECONDS TO CLEAR UP!!


This goes on...and on...and on...for the REST OF THE BOOK.

And do you want know how it is resolved?

After a bajillion times of saying he is going to leave, Jondalar finally does. Ayla is like, "OMGWTFBBQJONDALARISGONE?!?!!" to Nezzie and Nezzie is like, "Well, like, jah, he, like, totally loved you." And Ayla is like, "OMGWTFBBQJONDALARISGONE?!?!" And Nezzie is like, "Jah, he, like, thought you, like, didn't, like, love him." And Ayla is like, "BUT I LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURVE JONDALAR!?!" And she runs off to him. And she does her Clan kneeling before him. And she FINALLY FRAKKIN' TELLS HIM SHE LOVES HIM. AND HE FINALLY FRAKKIN' TELLS HER HE LOVES HER.

And you know what else? (YES THAT IS NOT ALL!!!) THAT'S IT!!! They f#$% (it's the same generic, cute and paste, graphic sex that we've seen the other bajillion times in this series), and it's over. There is no yelling, no "HOW DARE YOU HAVE SEX WITH RANEC", no "HOW DARE YOU WHORE YOURSELF OUT", no "BUT I THOUGHT I RAPED YOU ON THE HILLS AND YOU WERE CRYING BECAUSE I HURT YOU", it's just OVER!!!

If THAT is how you are going to end this plot...WHY did you make me go through HALF THE BOOK, drag this plotline out WAY past its point of believability, and suffer through the AGONIZING, REPETITIOUS "DOES HE/SHE LUUUUUURVE ME?!?!>!!!?!"

*is shackled and chained up*

And THIS is what ruins a book that otherwise wouldn't have been too bad. Auel made her supposedly smart "perfect" characters act stupid for 50% of the book, just to have a half @ssed plot.

This book did NOT need a Big Misunderstanding to be interesting. You could have had some actual Mammoth Hunting (there is only ONE scene, and it is so short, I almost missed it). You could have had some conflict with characters who think that the Clan are a bunch of animals (and not the mustache twirling Friebag who immediately is converted to Ayla-ism when Ayla saves his wife from labor). You could have had an interesting conflict with Jondalar being ashamed of Ayla living with the Clan and how his family would take it (that actually wasn't too bad). You could have had some interesting stories just with Ayla and Jondalar living with the Mamutoi. Hell, I would have GLADLY taken a Romantic Triangle with Ranec if it meant NO BIG MISUNDERSTANDING. It's stupid, it's insulting, it's unbelievable that two GROWN ADULTS (one of whom SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER--and that would be Jondalar) would act in such a stupid, childish fashion.

I've wandered all over the place, wondering if it is as good as or worse than Valley. In the end, I'm voting it down lower (YES LOWER) than Valley. Even with the boring Jonalar/Thonalan segments in Valley, at least it didn't strain credibility of the characters' intelligence with a prolonged Big Misunderstanding.


P.S. Even though this book made me want to go postal, I am STILL proceeding with the rest of the series. I will NOT let this be the book series that breaks me.

P.P.S I think there's a lot of stuff I've also missed in my attempt to rehashing the gruesomeness of the Big Misunderstanding. Just take a peek at my status updates for this book to see the other off-the-wall stuff I didn't talk about in this review.