Tuesday, July 13, 2010

BOOKS: Eva by Peter Dickinson

Back to back thanks to Jo Walton a reviewer for Tor.com (and a fellow Canuck these days). I'd never heard of Peter Dickinson before she reviewed Eva about three months ago. She mostly reviews older books. Eva dates back to the early 90's,

Eva is a charming, curious newly-minted teenager who wakes up one-day in a very confused state. She's been in a coma after surviving, barely, a car crash. However, her disorientation seems more severe than one would expect, even given the circumstances. Slowly, she becomes aware of her surroundings and rediscovers her body.

Correct that, her new body.

Her parents, faced with the terribly choice of letting her die or doing whatever, anything, to save her, have agreed to the impossible. Her brain, almost all that didn't perish in the crash, has been placed in the body of a chimpanzee. Predictably, the process of mastering her new body has many highs and lows. As does her re-introduction to society, and more especially, to chimp society. Dickinson masterfully takes the reader along on all of those journeys, detours included. It's certainly not always easy or successful.

The setting of the book is the not-so-near future. Humanity has just about exhausted the earth and certainly has reduced most of the animal life on earth to zoos and small reservations. Whole species have died out. And chimpanzees have survived more for their use as experimentation objects, then for anything else.

Eva is not just your average teenager-turned-ape. She's smart and becomes a crusader for chimp rights. And for ultimately returning chimpanzees to the wild. Nothing that screams PETA, but just calm, assured decision-making to make the impossible happen. The final chapter is a tear-jerker. Trust me, it's been a long time since Old Yeller and Bambi. I haven't welled up at the death of a fictional animal in a loooooong time.

Course, by then, I didn't think of Eva as an animal at all. She was a friend.

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