Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan ~ a review

Last night I finished reading one of the most amazing stories I have picked up this year, The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan. I'm a sucker for a bittersweet tale. When the world wakes up, it will realise we all are ;)

(Aussie covers above, & slightly less attractive US cover, below)


We do still judge a book by it's cover whether we are told to or not. I find the first two covers much closer to the heart of the story, so don't let the third one fool you. I might never have picked it up if it looked like this on the shelf I saw first last week. Sorry.

You can read the back page blurb as highlighted in the link above, or here.

Reviews for this book have been fiercely good, and no wonder when a certain yummy film studio has latched onto it. It is THAT good. I love a good time-travel sort of story, and especially the ones where separation from family and all that is held dear are things impossible to be reunited with.

From the very first pages (in fact from the back page blurb alone) I was hooked. Deep water is straight up my alley. Harvesting samples and digging for lost things almost sent me into a wholly different career path back when I was 12. Finding human remains has always fascinated me - probably because it proves our mortality and lack of control over life. In The Curiosity, this lack of control over life is made perfectly clear when the key character and POI is 'reanimated', or brought back to life after being found flash frozen in hard ice. This is how the book opens, with a crew sailing to search for samples in said ice, or more accurately, icebergs.

I cannot believe this book is a debut novel. But wait, maybe I can. The quality and flow are so good that it can only be a breakthrough novel. Kiernan tugs effortlessly at the heartstrings while pushing blatant human selfishness to its enth degree. Loneliness and loss are tangible, inescapable elements you find yourself needing to indulge in completely in order to associate with the key character (Jeremiah), who awakes courtesy of science (and the warm touch of Dr. Philo), only to find himself lost to everything he knew and lived but very prepared to make the most of his second life for the good of mankind.

Possibly the greatest penny drop moment for me is when Jeremiah is interviewed on live television by two talk-show hosts, one of whom asks what he thinks of their modern day world. Jeremiah openly replies that he finds it quite vulgar, among other things. Nothing could be more true, and I had been waiting for him to say as much.

This read is an experience. It is so full of awareness and beauty and amazing moments that I find it virtually impossible to categorise or explain with so few words. It is poignant, ugly, and unexpected. It is vivid. It is a journey.

While religious naysayers have their part in the book (as stereotypically they do seem to do in many novels), and while Jeremiah's view is obviously based in the scriptural contexts of his day, two things struck me as they will other readers from a Christian-based background. Technically these scientists are not playing God, because only God can return a soul. Man can make a human breathe; this is life support. Only God can make a spirit return. I guess fundamentalists in some places forget these things and in stories like this it makes for a more interesting read ;)

The other thing that came to mind is the verse in Genesis right before God splits the people of the globe into various nationalities at the Tower of Babel. Man was in the process of building a tower to reach the heavens, and making a very fair go of it. God saw, and knew their heart and motive. Effectively He said, "If we don't separate these guys now, nothing they imagine to do will be impossible for them." He was so right.

The insights into the characters in this book are so real. We all know people who fit their descriptions on some level, and the shift from head to head is easy to follow. It's a well-paced, masterfully thought out work of art. I also secretly love that the one thing Jeremiah decided to give into never happened. I love that his loyalty was preserved in this way because it was so much sweeter somehow. I love his thought process. I love his nature. I truly love the way his heart always returns to his wife and daughter. Love it, love it.

Yes, there is some language, part of which is used to enhance the theme of the book and the experiences of 'Subject One' during his days walking modern Boston a century after his death. The moving moments of going through reanimation, the freezing cold dive scenes, the rowing out to sea, the running from the press... it's all so real in the mind's eye (no wonder Fox wants it).


Much food for thought, and much to be appreciated, remembered, enjoyed and pondered long after the book has closed.

Imagine the loss.

Imagine my surprise.

Imagine what it would be like, indeed.

Wow. I'm going to have to read this again someday. I'm intrigued to see what Stephen Kiernan brings forth next.

Nothing will be impossible for them...

God knew it first.

L'Eternel descendit du ciel pour voir la ville et la tour que les hommes construisaient.
Alors il dit: ---Voici qu'ils forment un seul peuple parlant tous la même langue, et c'est là ce qu'ils ont entrepris de faire! Et maintenant, quels que soient les projets qu'ils concevront, rien ne les empêchera de les réaliser.

How many covers can one book have in the same year of release?

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