Dr. Dan's Elixir
|Potent Magic for Young Minds|
EVA by Peter Dickinson
Laurel-Leaf Books, Copyright © 1990
Paperback, 224 pages, $6.50
Age Group: 12-17
You are thirteen years old and involved in a horrible accident. Your body is
crushed and you are in an irreversible coma. Before the horrible accident, memory
neurons had been discovered and it was hypothesized that they could be
transferred from one host to another. The only way to save you is to implant your
memory neurons into the brain of a chimpanzee. Would you rather die or live
within a chimp body? A hard decision, yes? The choice is made for Eva while
she is unconscious. In order to save her, her parents allow an experimental
transfer of her memory neurons into the body of a chimp.
Weeks later when Eva begins to regain consciousness and move parts of her body
she is pleased to be alive in any form and particularly happy about it being a
chimp. Perhaps because her father is the head of the Chimp Reserve and Eva has
grown up with the monkeys as playmates, the transition was easy for her.
The state of the world is a mess. There are 6 billion people on the earth and
millions of them are in the United States. So many that there are teeming masses
everywhere. So many that people spend most of their time in their rooms because
going out in public is so frightening as you are jostled about by the mass of bodies.
There are only a few tiny acres of forest that have been preserved. As Joni
Mitchell sings, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."
Eva's father is the head of a chimp reserve. It amounts to a few deserted factories
converted into holding pens for chimps. The chimps' reservation is an iron forest
and steel panels. Nothing like their natural habitat would be. All chimps are born,
live and die is their manmade habitat. Also, these are the only chimps around.
They are nearly extinct as are a host of animals on earth.
Eva has grown up with these chimps. Her earliest memories are of playing beside
the chimps while one grooms her hair for lice and ticks, etc. Eva's close
association with apes provides what is needed for the memory neurons to implant
and function. Slowly Eva is allowed to wake up one part of her body at a time.
There is a mirror that allows her to look out of the window and in other parts of
the room. One wonders when she will turn the mirror and look at herself and the
horror of it all. Eventually she does turn the mirror and sees her face. Only a hint
of horror is present and within minutes she accepts her transformation. Again, her
familiarity with the chimps helps here.
There are two Eva's inside her chimp body. Eva the primate and Eva the
homosapien. A third party exists as well. The body belonged to a chimp named
Kelly and some of her remains in Eva's mind. Slowly Eva learns to coordinate
these "ghosts" and decide which she wants to become. Kelly begins to fade as
Eva learns how to use her new body and Eva's memory neurons take over more
and more of Kelly's brain.
Eva deals with some important issues. The most obvious being what it means to
be human. Does Eva qualify as a human or an animal? Throughout the book she
moves from one to the other gradually preferring to spend her time with the
chimps. Eva's motivation is two fold: she enjoys the peace of being with the
chimps and she wants to help them have a better, natural life. Most of the world
sees Eva as a main attraction at the circus. Those with power wish to profit from
her existence. Contracts are signed and she no longer belongs to herself. There is
a moral question in the novel as well. Is it right to sacrifice one life to prolong
another. We ask this question because Kelly is a primate and reminds us of
ourselves. Kelly's sacrifice for a human probes the morality of all animal
Eva's story is a dramatic one, full of suspense and intrigue. While reading this
book I came to care for Eva very much. What better recommendation can you
give a story or book? Read Eva, come to love her and adopt her. By the way, Eva
can be obtained as a reprinted paperback from Booksamillion.
Interstellar Pig by William Sleator
Firebird (Penguin), Copyright © 1984
Paperback, 197 pages, $6.99
Age Group: 12-17
Interstellar Pig is an ALA Notable Book, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults,
and an SLJ Best Book of the Year. This tells me there are a lot of people out there
who understood and enjoyed this book. I am not one of them. I had to force my
way through to the end only to find great disappointment.
Barney's family goes to the beach (a big lake, not the ocean) for the summer.
Barney is sensitive to the sun. He doesn't tan but burns severely. The cabin
Barney's family has rented was once the home of an ancient mariner and his crazy
brother. As the story goes, the brother went crazy the night a shipwreck survivor
was rescued. The next morning he lay dead in his bunk at the hands of the
captain's brother. No one knows why the captain's brother killed the man but
when they found him his was babbling about the dead man being the devil himself
and he had no other choice but to kill him.
It is this house full of legend to which Barney and his family comes. Part of the
legend says there was something of great value that the murderer took from his
victim. The Captain hid it somewhere on the island in the middle of the lake and
people have been looking for it for years. The family settles in for a quiet time at
the beach. Barney has brought a ton of science fiction books to read and is also
looking forward to some down time himself. All is well until the renters of the
cottage next door move in.
Immediately they capture the attention of the family. His parents are enamored
with them and Barney in curious indeed. A series of house raids occur looking for
that lost item of great worth. Then Barney becomes involved in a board game
called Interstellar Pig. Once he learns to play the complex game, he is invited
over to play the "real" thing. The consequences of losing the "real" game are
catastrophic and irreversible. Suddenly Barney finds himself in the hot seat still
trying to figure out what the interstellar pig is.
The volume of Sleator's work lacks the simple, straight forward science concepts
that make Singularity and The Last Universe such fun reads. Although the close
encounter of the third kind makes this an alien story, there seems to be little rhyme
or reason for their presence. Boom! We have alien intruders. Boom! We have an
intergalactic war being played out in the dinning room of a cinderblock cottage by
the lake. For what purpose? That's what I was unable to determine.