The Curiosity

Written by Stephen Kiernan

Review written by Sara Townsend

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group.

The Curiosity
Hodder & Stoughton
RRP: £7.99
Released: May 8th, 2014

Maverick scientific genius Erastus Carthage has developed a technique to bring frozen simple-celled animals back to life.  Leading an expedition to the Arctic to find suitable specimens, his research vessel discovers a man flash-frozen in an iceberg, and Carthage seizes the chance to use his pioneering process on a human being.  The man the scientists revive from death is Jeremiah Rice, a Massachusetts judge who fell overboard in 1906.

Jeremiah wakes to a world a century away from the one he knew – a word he believes to be brilliant, but vulgar and violent.  And suddenly he’s a celebrity:  chased by paparazzi, condemned by the religious right and pursued by a crowd of people claiming to be a distant relative.  Jeremiah’s only ally in this strange world is biologist Kate Philo.  But as the two of them grow closer, Jeremiah’s borrowed time in this new and alien world is slipping away.

This novel is part science fiction, part romance.  What it’s not, however, is a crime novel.  The story is told from four viewpoint characters:  Kate Philo, Jeremiah Rice, Erastus Carthage, and journalist Daniel Dixon.  All are in the first person except Carthage’s, which is second person.  I’m not a big fan of second person POV, and Carthage is a difficult character to like, and I found his sections rather hard to read.

The over-ruling theme of the story is the ethical question of whether a man brought back from the dead, into a world that he doesn’t belong in, should expect the same rights as other human beings – particularly when it is known from the outset when he only has a finite time in that world.  To Carthage, Rice’s value is only in the success of the experiment.  To Kate Philo, he is a man who deserves respect and consideration, but her concern for his well-being quickly turns into love.  Jeremiah Rice’s point of view is that of a man trying to make sense of an alien and violent world, and come to terms with the fact that the wife and daughter he saw only a few days ago (from his point of view) are long since dead.  From this aspect the story is fascinating and engrossing.  However, one should avoid thinking too hard about the science fiction element (emphasis on the ‘fiction’) as the theory behind Carthage’s experiment probably doesn’t hold up to too much expert scrutiny.

In summary, I found it an engrossing and enjoyable read, and a novel that still had me thinking about it long after reaching the end.

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