September 23, 2005

Reading List: Lovelock

by Orson Scott Card and Kathryn H. Kidd, 1994.

I strongly dislike a lot of books written by Orson Scott Card. Yet I really like this one, possibly thanks to the influence of the other author. The cover promises that it is the first book of a trilogy, but, over a decade later, the second book has yet to appear. So why do I like it?

The narrator and main character, the eponymous Lovelock, is a genetically engineered cyborg capuchin monkey, the only one of his kind that we meet in the book. He's actually smarter in most ways than the human characters, yet lacks the ability to speak and is viewed as an animal by most people, or at best a tool. Lovelock has capuchin monkey instincts (not to mention conditioned programming), and thus observes (and sarcastically comments on) the behaviour of his adopted family and the other inhabitants of the village of Mayflower from a unique viewpoint.

Mayflower, I should mention, is one village on a starship preparing to depart for an interstellar colonization mission. Its populace are only just beginning to get to know one another, and have just been disconnected from their former lives, yet for all that they are living in what is effectively a small town. The quickly changing dynamics are all observed by Lovelock, and along the way he takes a hard look at his own situation and begins to break out of it.

The novel stands well on its own as an exploration of the consequences of uplifting animals and then treating them as slaves, from the inside, so I can forgive the broken promise of a sequel. Go read it, if you can find a copy.


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