We all know the adage ‘curiosity killed the cat’, well in Kiernan’s debut novel, curiosity did a lot more than that: it killed the dead man. When an Arctic scientific expedition in search of single-cell life forms stumbles upon a lot more than it usually does – krill and sardines, a whole new world of discovery seemingly opens up before it. A human being encased in ‘hard ice’ offers the prospect for further experimentation and significant developments in the realm of cryogenics.
Although reanimation has been successful, the life that is returned is only temporary, lasting around three weeks at best. The potential reanimation of a man is a massive leap from single-cell organisms, and naturally, that leap brings with it a plethora of ethical considerations.
While the premise is extremely interesting and the implications astounding for cryogenics, there is a lot lacking in this story. The public’s reaction to the whole process is over the top and the project seems to continue without any intervention by governmental, legal, human rights, ethical, or medical bodies. You would think, too, that if you wakened a dead guy who lived over a hundred years ago, one of the first things you might consider doing would be to see if there were any descendants to contact? Apparently not.
The four main characters were also too weak and stereotyped to give any real depth to the narrative. Each chapter is written from the perspective of one of these characters, which is fine, so long as you can give them a voice that is distinct from the others. Their conversational styles tended to blend, though.
Jeremiah Rice, or Judge Rice, as he was known in the day, is reanimation man. Born in 1868 and dead by 1906, his reaction to being alive again in the 21st century seems just a little too blasé, not quite panicky enough to be realistic.
Erastus Carthage is the megalomaniac, egocentric, obsessive hand-washing genius who heads up the Lazarus Project. His main aim is to exploit Jeremiah to attract research funding. Everybody basically hates him, except his do-gooder assistant.
Kate Philo is one of the head scientists also present at the discovery of Jeremiah. The only rationale I can give for her being in the story is as a love interest. Otherwise, she has very little impact apart from, apparently, having a nice arse.
Daniel Dixon is the sleazy reporter who will do anything to gain sole access to the project. He’s just a big, fat pervert: the one usually commenting on Kate’s fine arse.
So although I feel this story lacked any real plausibility, I did actually enjoy reading it, and I’m sure others will too. The best way to approach it is to regard it for what it is: something not to be taken at all seriously, something just to read and absorb as you witness Jeremiah’s journey through death, re-birth and then death again.