Thursday, December 30, 2010

ADOPTION, A SUPERB SPECULATIVE NOVEL

Hot off the press – ADOPTION, a “what if” novel that arrived yesterday! It’s written by my good friend and author, Victoria I. Sullivan, and here’s a brief preview of an outstanding story about speculative science:

As Val Smythe lectures to her class in Evolutionary Biology at a university in Vermilion, Louisiana, she suddenly recognizes that polyploidy characteristics in Eupatorium, the plant subject of her scientific research, resemble those of an extremely tall, brilliant six-year old child named Mary Solven who was left on Val’s doorstep when Mary's mother dies. The “aha” moment occurs as Val is explaining to her class: “Polyploidy has its advantages, despite the inability to sexually reproduce. For instance, polyploids are larger, reproduce by cloning at an early age, tolerate colder temperatures and endure environmental stress. Taller, mature earlier…what had she left out?

“A bizarre thought struck her, like a piece of Celotex falling from the ceiling, which was possible in this classroom. Could Mary be polyploidy? She’s taller than normal and matured early. Was she created in her father’s fertility clinic? She had to see her chromosomes and talk to Dr. Solven. Or was she being ridiculous? If she mentioned this to her colleagues, they’d say she’d been running too many miles in the park…”

Mary Solven, the superhuman in Sullivan’s fantastical novel, ADOPTION, is seven feet tall and already conversant in several languages. Due to the death of Mary’s mother, Erika, Val, and her husband David have been forced to adopt the child, but Val has misgivings about raising a human with such bizarre differences in height, mind, and strength.

Sullivan presents an exciting premise about the anthropomorphic extension of plants to human life in this speculative novel, which is explained through a blog that Mary Solven writes to other polyploid humans: “Dr. Solven created polyploids in his fertility clinics. Besides our great height, we also share other features (we think) growing to adulthood by age five or six, physically and mentally, and having the capacity for regeneration. We make Vitamin C, and we are parthenogenetic, which means our parthenogenetic genes allow spontaneous pregnancies without sexual intercourse. …”

The major antagonist of the novel, Dr. Solven, has created a new race of superhumans who frighten government officials and clergy, and these factions condemn and plot to eradicate the new creatures produced in the U.S., Russia, and Korea. The polyploid humans are forced to live on a reservation called “Polysomia”, and women are subjected to mass hysterectomies so that they can’t further propagate members of the strange race. Shortly after Mary falls in love with another polyploid, Jon, Dr. Solven is murdered. Mary marries Jon in an illegal ceremony, and David barely escapes jail when he forges birth certificates. Widespread hatred burgeons when the corpulent priest, Fr.Landry, stirs the emotions of diploids who listen to his sermons and radio broadcasts. Sullivan masterfully creates suspense by relating the persecutions of the unique superhumans, and the threat of extinction occurs.

The threatened extinction of polyploids causes Val to reflect on similar extinctions that have occurred in the world: “Their fate resembled other extinctions. Diploids were intolerant or just plain xenophobic and eventually would rid the planet of all primates genetically similar to them. Neanderthals had lived side by side with diploid humans at one time and even interbred with them, and look what had happened to them. Other primates, no matter how distantly related, were being driven to extinction. At least polyploids had drawn attention away from internecine killings among diploids with only minor religious or skin color differences. But diploids wouldn’t stop until all polyploids were dead. That had become perfectly clear. The sentiments of Hitler lay just under the skin of humankind, despite protests that such holocausts could never happen again…”

The surprise ending of this fantastical novel contains only two words and will intrigue readers, perhaps to the point of requesting a sequel? Sullivan has created a suspenseful novel that poses profound questions about the boundaries of science and which reveals insights into the world of human differences. ADOPTION is an excellent read that reflects the mind of a highly-enlightened scientist and an imaginative creative writer.

Sullivan received a B.A. from the University of Miami and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. She has published numerous scientific papers, non-fiction articles, flash fiction, and poetry. She taught biology and botany as an associate professor in the Department of Biology at ULL in Lafayette for 20 years. ADOPTION is her first novel. She resides in Sewanee, Tennessee most of the year and in New Iberia, Louisiana during the winter.

ADOPTION can be ordered from www. Pinyon-Publishing.com.
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