On an isolated island near a small Adirondacks town, a physicist constructs a maser that he hopes will unlock secrets encoded in rocks left by the glaciers. Soon after activating the maser, he dies in an attack by a wild animal. Emma and her pet cat Billie discover that he and another man have been killed by animals that existed ten thousand years ago; somehow, the maser has opened a portal to the Pleistocene Epoch. Now these and other animals are fleeing for their lives from hunters on the other side of the doorway. While the denouement demonstrates how humankind may have been responsible for the extinction of many Pleistocene animals, the story is sedately told; even the most dire situations the tension level is minimal. This, however, may appeal to certain readers. Appropriate for large fiction collections.Patricia Altner, Information Seekers, Bowie, Md.
Stronger and more adult fantasy than Elze's Milquetoast debut novel, The Changeling Garden (1995), but still something for the ladies of the garden club.
Emma and Max, her cartoonist husband, summer on the shore of an Adirondack lake with a small island just offshore. As the story opens, Emma is becoming concerned about the peculiar behavior of her cat, Billie, through whose eyes many of the more imaginative parts of the novel are told. The summer before, Emma's father had died on the island, savaged by some unknown beast. He'd been building a time-machine, powered by solar energy, that has now begun functioning, intermittently opening small doors in time invisible at first to everyone but the cat. Billie has discovered that she can leap through a door near her front lawn and land on the island. Other doors on the island begin to allow huge six-foot beavers, great sabertooth cats, woolly mammoths, and huge wolves to enter our world. Emma is the first person to see them, and is ridiculed until a fellow animal-lover manages to tranquilize a sabertooth, one of the several creatures, it turns out, that are emerging from a two-million-acre virgin forest from the Pleistocene Age. A restaurant owner is killed by a wolf, which is later shot, and the townsfolk realize, when they begin to explore, that they are the dazed owners of a kind of gateway to a preStone Age Disney World. Emma, however, is less concerned with money than with preserving the animals. On a solo visit to the island, she walks through a doorway and finds herself among Stone Age early humans, marooned until the fickle time machine begins to function again. The climax is reminiscent of the recent film Jumanji, featuring troops of extinct beasts traipsing through civilization.