Having seen no other thread dedicated to this work of Alternate History (the brain-child of Mr Gregory W. Detwiler), it seemed reasonable to start one up in order to offer my review of same.

Once, long ago, I stumbled onto the preview chapter of a novel - actually a series of short stories following the same character through various adventures - set on an alternate earth called 'Proboscidia' (which translates to something like 'Planet of the Trunks'), on which evolution took a very different course with the eventual result that elephants and their closest relations became the dominant herbivores, with various side-effects leading to Humanity making no appearance on this particular orb right up until the day commercial explorers from a parallel Earth punched a hole in the wall between dimensions & used it as a gateway into a planet even more heavy with ivory than the average Grand Piano.

Unsurprisingly, with ivory selling for something on the order of $1000 per pound and not a single native Environmental agency to protest the local species (and those on the other side of the local gateway doubtless being as overworked as ever while keeping Mankind from killing their own home-world), harvesting of this bounteous reserve of 'White Gold' commenced with enthusiasm and a decidedly retro flavour.

The technology for travel between Alternate Earths (originally derived from Time Travel tech that proved to have some interesting side-effects) having been discovered in the mid-21st Century (according to the author it should be showing up in the next thirty years or so), the better part of a century - and possibly rather more than a century - after the commercial hunting of Elephant rather went out of style, early hunters on Proboscidia found available hunting weapons a tad under-powered for handling the local elephantine beasts and their most dangerous predators (which would, perforce, have to be big enough to bring down an elephant and are therefore often big enough to gulp a mere man with a single swallow); as a stopgap measure they adopted the rifles of their predecessors from the Victorian/Edwardian heyday of the Ivory Trade (or reasonably close copies) and, for better or worse, some of their approach to life in general.

Having been introduced to - and become deeply attached to - the works of Mr Wilbur Smith at an impressionable age courtesy of secondhand copies left lying around by an older cousin (or possibly my uncle, I'm not sure who originally brought them), not to mention being an extremely keen fan of the sort of 'Creature Feature' of the sort that kept Mr Ray Harryhausen gainfully employed back in the day, I was swiftly hooked after reading through the adventures & misadventures of one Reginald Carte-Smythe (a gentleman - actually a Peer of the Real - whose family had fallen on times so hard that facing the howling wilderness of a planet where predators are either big enough to tackle a small elephant or very hungry indeed was probably safer than facing down a legion of creditors) as he worked under the Iberian sun of a Spain that would never know the Spanish, except as visitors, to clear his debt and put himself in the black, come Hell or high water, in the teeth of animals combining the maritime habits of dugongs with the loveable, happy-go lucky attitude of a hippopotamus in a homicidal mood and some excessively-curious cave lions on steroids.

It was all, I now realise in hindsight, so very delightfully Pulp.

Now at this point one should admit that I have been looking for a copy of this book for the better part of a decade - and probably more - without even the faintest trace of such a volume; I was therefore obliged to order a copy from a Print on Demand service and was extremely pleased to receive it a day or two ago.

With this is mind I will assume - for the purposes of this review - that very few will have actually read this work of amateur enthusiasm; it is, to the best of my knowledge, just about as obscure as a work can be and still have an incidental reference in one or two articles on the apparently-omniscienct (but not invariably interested) TV Tropes; not an article in its own right, to be sure, but one or two honourable mentions in other articles.

Having long sought and only now received this piece of work and read all the way through, I must now be brutally honest about it - this is most definitely a first novel (or rather, collection of shorter stories) and has all the enthusiasm, typos & occasional factual errors* one must expect from a first time author synthesising an interest in evolution, prehistoric beasties and Victorian Adventurers into novel form. It also contains the expression of a number of opinions that were last popular in 2001, when the book was written (I suspect those minor factual errors in the text owe much to scholarship having been updated by new finds in the years since and a lack of ready access to that unfailing well of knowledge trivial & profound, the Internet) and at least opinion which would have looked downright outdated even then.

*For example, the protagonist is explicitly called 'Viscount of Buckminster' (to his credit, Milord much prefers 'Reggie'), but is more often called 'Sir Reginald' than the more proper 'Lord Reginald' (one of those minor details that don't really affect the flow of this work per se, but do tend to nag those in the know and affect the verisimilitude of a tale in which Humanity has decided to skip Interstellar travel for the sake of colonising those Alternate Earths made accessible to them by the peculiarities of a pre-existing time machine); another is that, strictly speaking, the proper style is 'Viscount Buckminster' (rather than 'Viscount of').

In a nutshell Mr Detwiler assumed that females had no place on so MANLY an enterprise as a wilderness expedition a-hunting Elephant, since ladies simply couldn't handle the recoil of an old-school elephant gun and were therefore hopelessly doomed; in all fairness having seen videos showcasing the recoil of those old hand-cannons he might not be entirely mistaken in this opinion, but the Author's failure to countenance possible alternatives to such weaponry shows a certain lack of imagination in this one respect (Mr Detwiler explicitly depicts the use of vehicle mounted weaponry on the various expeditions, mostly mounted on the very barges intended to haul ivory home, which makes his contention that women simply couldn't handle the high-calibre weaponry required extremely to kill the ivory-bearing beasts extremely questionable even if one does not consider more outré possibilities, such as poison darts fired in the style of a tranquilliser dart).

In truth his opinions on the subject seem more annoying than malicious, even with hindsight; while my opinion may alter should further information on Mr Detwiler come to light, these attitudes seem the product of a boyish 'No Girls Allowed' mindset, rather than true misogyny (although we see little enough of the fairer sex in these stories, so it's somewhat hard to tell either way - although one might argue this very absence is telling). Quite Frankly any reader with a fondness for mid-20th Century Pulp literature & Science Fiction (or Victorian literature) is likely to read this book without turning a hair, with only the occasional telling phrase to give genuine offence.

On the other hand those who consider hunting, sport or commercial, to be murder and nothing else are heartily encouraged to avoid this book - which will likely reduce them to an indignant fury with its fond regard for the pursuit of Big Game as profession, as coming of age ritual and as a general seal of the very Manliest Manhood.

So much then for the weaknesses of IVORY EXTRAORDINAIRE, what then of its strengths? Well, for a start, patrons of Alternate History.com will doubtless find it delightfully easy to slip this novel, its characters and the organisation which allows them to make a living** into the Multiverse of Mr Harry Turtledove's CROSSTIME TRAFFIC (it is explicitly noted that II is only one of a number of companies exploiting dimensional travel, each of which has found its own niche, albeit by far the most dominant); it should also be noted that the diverse creatures described in this setting are genuinely cool - including a 'Terror Bird' grown to the size of small tyrannosaur, giant homicidal manatees, sabre-tooth cats, possibly-sapient mandrills the size of gorillas and of course various elephant-descendants of every size & family.

The world of Proboscidia is, in fact, quite fascinating in its own right - being actually in advance of Our Earth, geologically-speaking, with Continental drift having connected Australia to Asia (Australia's place having been taken by Antarctica, drifting away from the South Pole) and also wrested North America apart from South America, as well as carrying largely unchanged continents out of their present location and into new climate zones; coupled with the passing mention of a whole slew of other worlds that might well merit tall tales of their own someday, the setting seems rich in a potential that the stories in this collection tap but do not always express to their fullest potential.

In addition the characters depicted are, if frequently more archetype than man, at least reasonably engaging company; their adventures are not without interest and they repay an easy-going readers attention in full, if that reader does not demand too much of them. It should also be noted to its credit that the book appears quite colour-blind on the matter of race (one of the most engaging stories in the collection is, in fact, a rather delightful lampoon of the classic Great White Hunter dynamic).

(Interdimensional Industries - aka 'II' - a corporation the operations of which are left mostly un-detailed, save for the fact it is magnificently rich and involved with the colonisation & exploitation of various worlds on which Mankind never evolved).

To sum up, this book strikes me as a promising start; the stories are archetypical but not boring, the Alternate World depicted will repay attention from the imaginative and the beasties presented are quite delightful in their own right. It should also be noted that the concept of a whole multiverse of wild worlds awaiting the attentions of scouts, explorers, hunters, visionaries and other pioneers seems an extremely vein for the imaginative to mine (as the patrons of this website will doubtless agree).

Also, while this novel may sometimes lack originality it never lacks a sincere enthusiasm for its subject matter - it is, quite frankly, comfort food for those with a fondness for Old School wilderness adventure of the most Pulp sort and I would be lying if one did not express an enjoyment for the simple delights it offers (despite its occasional failure of imagination when it comes to moving on from its most obvious influences).

All in All, SEVEN OUT OF TEN; solid, occasionally quite delightful, but definitely not living up to its fullest potential as I see it.