The Curiosity by Stephen P Kiernan
|The Curiosity by Stephen P Kiernan|
|Category: Science Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: This is pitched as being something between Michael Crichton and The Time Traveler's Wife but is nothing much like either. What it is an enjoyable light summer read that raises a few questions about the ideas and the media that governs our lives seasoned with some poignant, chaste romance.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 480||Date: July 2013|
|Publisher: John Murray|
|External links: Author's website|
Microbiologist Kate Philo is a member of an Arctic expedition sent to locate life forms frozen in ice flows. Striking it lucky, she and the team find a human whom they reanimate once they get him back to their American lab. However new life brings new challenges. The man died over a century earlier and much has changed. The press is now omnipotent, his 'resurrection' offends religious fundamentalists and scientific ethics never saw this problem coming. To Kate, though, he's not a problem. He's Jeremiah, afraid, bewildered and in need of an ally.
The idea for this book was planted in American author Stephen P Kiernan's mind in 1992 by James Taylor or, to be totally accurate, by a James Taylor song. It may have taken over 20 years to write and publish, but there's also now a film in the offing so it was worth the wait from the author's viewpoint and indeed from the readers'.
The Curiosity is a fascinating 'what if' extrapolation around what the world could expect if cryogenically preserved people (via natural or man-made means) could be reanimated. The publicity blurb likens it to Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife and the works of Michael Crichton. My personal advice would be to ignore both comparisons as Stephen ploughs his own furrow. Yes, there is real science at its base as in a Michael Crichton, but it's not as detailed as Mr C's explanations would have been (good news for those who prefer story to slightly deeper academic thought). Again, yes, there is a romantic element but it wafts around as a beautiful chaste tenderness and a reasoned motive. Also, once Jeremiah has reached the 21st century neither he nor anyone else is travelling through history (a big difference from Henry 'the Time Traveler').
You could say that if the novel was at Glastonbury, love and science would be on the smaller festival stages. The main headliner stage (as the thrust of the story) features Jeremiah's return to the living, how it's taken by the man himself and the reaction of world at large.
Jeremiah is intelligent and Abraham-Lincolnesque. We feel sorry for him when the full realisation of his predicament hits him and he struggles to come to terms with modernity from a nightclub visit right through to watching YouTube and the Apollo moon landings.
Kate isn't exactly unaffected by it either. She's torn between the scientific discovery of which she's a part and the fact that it centres on a human with rights beyond those of a lab rat. Kate and Jeremiah also generate a lot of the excitement (no, not like that!) but I'll leave that for you to discover.
Erastus Carthage, the driving force and dictatorial brain behind the enterprise, has reasons for his Frankenstein-like quest: fame, self-aggrandisement, financial gain without a jot of compassion for humanity. In fact, in common with ruthless journalist Daniel Dixon, Erastus seems not to have any redeeming features at all. He not only takes in his stride the storm revolving around Jeremiah, he also fuels it.
Don't let the thought of pantomime baddies put you off though. I put them to one side easily and loved the rest of the book. Kate, Jeremiah and the world on their doorsteps were more than enough to capture my interest. I plumped for them through bitten nails right to the inevitable end. (Not a comment on predictability; it was inevitable because that's where the story started.) As for the film, I can imagine that being hugely popular as easily as I can imagine Erastus having an English accent.
If you enjoy a romance that shifts between time zones and you've read or aren't that enamoured with The Time Traveler's Wife, we recommend Time's Echo by Pamela Hartshorne. If you're more into scientific thrillers, try Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Curiosity by Stephen P Kiernan at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
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