Sunday, September 9, 2012
Review of "Origin," by Jessica Khoury
I probably wouldn't have picked up this novel, except that I won an ARC in a giveaway at Live to Read. It hit stores a few days ago, but due to the fact that I had it shipped to my family's house in St. Louis rather than my new apartment, I didn't get a chance to read it until I met my mom in Vermont.
Other than the prose, there is only one element of the book that was well-done: Pia. Her thoughts and emotions came across as very real, and never once did her actions feel forced.
But as for everything else? Ugh, where to begin? We'll start with Eio--a romantic hunk and too stupid to live. Sure, I get that he's in love, but some of his actions are just bona fide idiotic. I mean, what the hell do you think you're going to accomplish by throwing yourself against an electric fence? And his conversations with Pia? The progression of dialogue is far from realistic. And it doesn't help that his community is full of the archetypical noble savages. None of the Ai'oans actually felt like real characters. Outside of their relationship to Pia, the scientists, and the mythical immortality-granting flower, these characters hardly seemed to have any identities of their own. Oh yeah, and the way they welcome Pia into their community as a savior, despite the fact that she's an outsider? They knew about the scientists' experiments on immortality flowers, as well the deep, dark secret behind that immortality. Their response to meeting her shouldn't have been "Oh, hey, an immortal girl came to save us!" I'm thinking something more along the lines of "Fuck, fuck, fuck. This girl was made immortal by crazy scientists who discovered the deep, dark secret!"
Oh, and speaking of crazy scientists, what's the deal with all of these books portraying researchers as cold, emotionless wannabe robots? Or at least that's what I thought by the end of the first chapter. But by the time I finished the book, it was very clear that the scientists here go beyond simply "cold." In fact, in order for Pia to become a scientist in the Immortis project, she has to pass what are called Wickham tests, which basically measure how much of a sociopath you are.
Some background on real-life scientists: We're not sociopaths. We're not emotionless eugenicists. We have quirks, feelings, and familial affections, and yes, we listen to music. Some of us are religious, and believe it or not, we even have morals! (Two of the principle investigators I have worked for were vegetarians, even though both worked in labs that performed research on animals.) And although we do kill and maim animals, we try to do it painlessly, and with a greater good in mind.
The scientists in Origin claim they follow a similar "ends justify the means" philosophy, but while the book makes it very clear what the "means" are, I'm a little hazy on the "ends." From the sound of it, all the Immortis project is meant to accomplish is to prove to the world that SCIENCE IZ TEH AWESOME. They will not be saving lives, curing diseases, or even making any money. (And this also brings up the question of why they need to create a whole race of immortals? Isn't just one immortal enough to suit their purposes?)
I expected this blog post to come out very angry like my Insurgent review did, (at least Insurgent tried to show examples of decent scientists) but the anger has passed and now all I'm left with is a feeling of puzzlement. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that somebody actually wrote this.
But while I'm at it, let me point out a few more things: a) What's with delaying the big reveal? Sure, it's more dramatic, but would the characters actually do that? When I want to warn someone of great evil and impending doom, I don't get all cryptic about it. I give them the details, and I do so as quickly as possible. b) Pia can't bleed, but she can bruise--which doesn't make any sense, because bruises are caused by internal bleeding. c) I'm fairly certain Jessica Khoury has no idea what cerebral palsy is--a problem that could have been fixed with a two-minute Google search. (If you're really going to throw in a token fatal disease without doing any research, just use cancer.)
Don't waste your time on Origin. Or, if you insist on being masochistic, just get a copy from the library rather than spending actual money on this anti-intellectual tripe.