Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Colony by Jillian Weise

What is the cost of conformity?

I’ve been very lucky! Three great novels in a row! This one is stands out because it’s bold –it asks big uncomfortable questions about technology and ethics– it’s not patting the reader on the back for being morally superior. At the same time, (and I think this is meant to be a joke) a major plot mechanism seems to be, Will he/won’t he ask me on a date? And, how does my hair look? The narrator is Anne Hatley, who was born with one leg because of a genetic mutation. The scientists pay her five grand a month to study her genes and automatically assume she desires gene therapy, that she would want to grow a new leg or at least have a child with two legs. Underlying the stories is the narrator’s question or struggle – is there something wrong with me? Is there something wrong with only having one leg? Wrong enough to spend a fortune and a life’s career on genetic procedures to eliminate one legged people for all time?

The framework of this novel is realistic, almost like a present day documentary though many “science fictiony” things happen. The writing is consistently sharp and insightful, not overly fancy.

The end felt a little bit rushed, although the story lands on its target. The experiment goes awry. Smart scientists actually don’t know what they were doing – although we never got the sense in this novel that they did. The most poignant part for me was that the narrator was in love with a chubby old married man – partly because he was the only one who never mentioned her one leggedness – then it turns out he was very conscious of it. I learned that maybe different people don’t feel so different.

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