Sixteen-year-old Evening Spiker lives an affluent life in San Francisco with her mother, Terra, a successful geneticist and owner of Spiker Biotech. Sure, Evening misses her father who died mysteriously, but she’s never really questioned it. Much like how she’s never stopped to think how off it is that she’s never been sick. That is, until she’s struck by a car and is exposed to extensive injuries. Injuries that seem to be healing faster than physically possible.
While recuperating in Spiker Biotech’s lush facilities, she meets Solo Plissken, a very attractive, if off-putting boy her age who spent his life at Spiker Biotech. Like Evening, he’s never questioned anything… until now. Solo drops hints to Evening that something isn’t right, and Terra may be behind it. Evening puts this out of her mind and begins her summer internship project: To simulate the creation of the perfect boy. With the help of Solo, Evening uncovers secrets so big they could change the world completely.
-cover and description courtesy of goodreads.
Atmospheric Analysis: This isn’t a bad cover, but it does look a little too much like a freshman biology textbook for my liking.
Planetary Class: Contemporary sci-fi thriller.
Mohs Rating: I’d call Eve & Adam a 3 on the Mohs scale for physics plus. The medicinal developments and genetic engineering are fairly implausible, but Grapplegate does a good job of making them sound real.
Viability Rating: The science here is pretty hand-wavy, so it’s difficult to say. We never see through precisely what mechanisms the artificially-created man is, you know, created–he’s just born from a tank fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus. For what it’s worth, I found the mysterious healing injection to be less plausible than the entire genetic engineering Sim game set-up.
Xenolinguistical Assessment: Applegrant’s prose is breezy and effortless. Though it’s rarely fancy it is also rarely offensive–just smooth, efficient, workmanlike commercial writing. The adolescent voices are well-rendered too, warts (cursing) and all.
Expanded Report: If you’ve been following the Intergalactic Academy, then you know that we’re fans of KA Applegate. To date, Sean has recapped over half of her classic YA sci-fi series Animorphs. Animorphs was, in fact, one of the first things we bonded over–on the AbsoluteWrite forums, we talked about how we loved this dark contemporary space opera and how badly we wished someone would bring that magic back.
So I was very excited to pick up Eve & Adam, a collaboration between Katherine Applegate and her husband Michael (who also helped her out on Animorphs, rumor has it). But based on the premise, my expectations were not particularly high. On the surface, Eve & Adam is not dissimilar to many other YA sci-fi titles out there today. In fact, the focus on genetic engineering, artificial men, and evil corporations is fairly run of the mill.
But what distinguishes Eve & Adam is, really, what has always distinguished Applegate’s work. Don’t get me wrong; this is not a particularly deep book. It certainly isn’t literary. Told in the alternating viewpoints of Eve Spiker, daughter of an evil corporate head, and Solo Plissken, Eve’s mother’s ward, Eve & Adam tells an action-oriented story about how Eve is summoned home after an accident to start designing simulated people at her mother’s corporation–and how Solo tries to intervene, bringing the corporation crashing down. It is extremely–deliciously, I’d say–fast-paced, with chase scenes and dramatic kisses. It’s a commercial novel, through and through.
As were the Animorphs novels, of course. Those packaged titles were just-as-often written by ghostwriters. They featured a strong commercial hook, frequent battle scenes, slightly corny humor, and mildly embarrassing covers. But the Animorphs series was transcendent because of its strength of character, darkness, and nuance. Our heroes were strongly rendered from the outset, distinctive and realistic. The novels trended very dark by the end, and the arguments they made–about war, about heroism–were always complex. This was not a universe of black and white, simplistic morality.
All of these elements are present in Eve & Adam, which is precisely what makes it so great.
Take the characters: Solo Plissken is a teenage boy who is aching to be a hero; in order to do so, he needs to destroy the bitchy woman who owns his life. Solo’s chapters are liberally scattered with wry humor and accurate teenage diction (cursing!). Evening Spiker is a mildly nerdy girl who is not quite sure what she wants. Does she want to be like Aislin, the friend her mother disdains for her sexual proclivities? Or does she want to be like her mom–sharp, educated, controlled?
Grand and Applegate don’t beleaguer the point with either of these characters. They present them in bold, broad strokes and then let the narrative move on. The ease with which the characters are established (and the snappy pace of the book) might make you think that it’s one note. In fact, I initially feared we were in for little more than another story about the evils of scientific research.
But that’s not what this book is about. First of all, there’s a real love for science here–from Plissken’s computer hacking to Spiker’s use of a complex sim capable of building artificial humans. Somehow, Applegate and Grant were able to capture precisely what makes games like Spore so addictive–the art of it, as well as the twitchy, modular fun. Secondly, there’s surprising nuance in the minor characters (even the villains) by the end. Thematically, this is a fairly dark tale–though perhaps not as dark as Animorphs–about discovering the truth behind your childhood myths about your parents. It’s also got a bit of a Pygmalion thing going on, about art and artists, about creators and how the things they make can grow beyond their control.
But I think the most interesting questions here are ethical: when is it right to play god? To what lengths should we go to protect our creations–our children?
Again, this isn’t great literature. But for commercial lit it does a good job of incorporating complexity and big ideas. And that, I think, is what I always liked best about Animorphs, too. They were deceptive little books. Kids turn into animals, ha ha–only not. I think the same is true about Eve & Adam. You might think this is just another YA sci-fi thriller, but there’s some pretty juicy meat here on a familiar set of bones.
Eve & Adam comes out October 2, and is available for preorder from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local indie bookstore. And we’re currently giving away a copy–along with 9 other books! Please check out our contest post here for more information.