Book Review: The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan

curiosityTitle: The Curiosity
Author: Stephen P. Kiernan
Genre: Science fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
First line: I was already wide-awake when they came for me.

Goodreads blurb: Dr. Kate Philo and her scientific exploration team make a breathtaking discovery in the Arctic: the body of a man buried deep in the ice. As a scientist in a groundbreaking project run by the egocentric and paranoid Erastus Carthage, Kate has brought small creatures-plankton, krill, shrimp-“back to life.” Never have the team’s methods been attempted on a large life form.

Heedless of the consequences, Carthage orders that the frozen man be brought back to the lab in Boston, and reanimated. As the man begins to regain his memories, the team learns that he was-is-a judge, Jeremiah Rice, and the last thing he remembers is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906. When news of the Lazarus Project and Jeremiah Rice breaks, it ignites a media firestorm and massive protests by religious fundamentalists.

Thrown together by circumstances beyond their control, Kate and Jeremiah grow closer. But the clock is ticking and Jeremiah’s new life is slipping away. With Carthage planning to exploit Jeremiah while he can, Kate must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the man she has come to love.

I haven’t been accepting many review copies this year, as I started 2013 with a determination to whittle down my own to-be-read shelves. I am so glad that I made an exception when it came to Stephen P. Kiernan’s The Curiosity, as this is one of the best books I’ve read all year.

The story of the Lazarus Project is told from four viewpoints: scientist Dr. Kate Philo; ego-maniacal Erastus Carthage; Dixon, a journalist determined to get the exclusive; and the resurrected Jeremiah Rice himself. Kate, Jeremiah, and Dixon’s sections are all told in first person, but the author chose to tell Carthage’s portion of the story in second person, which increases the sense of his authority and obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Carthage sees Jeremiah as Subject One, the property of the project, and something to be studied and manipulated. Kate realizes that they have crossed a boundary of science and ethics, and are in a gray area – and is determined to make sure that Jeremiah is treated like a human, with all the rights due to him. Dixon only sees the story, and isn’t quite sure that what he’s seeing is real. And Jeremiah is a man out of time. In his mind, he said goodbye to his wife a daughter a few weeks ago, left on an Arctic expedition, and then was swept overboard. In reality, however, over a hundred years have passed, Jeremiah’s family is long dead, and he is alive in a world that he barely recognizes.

There is much to ponder in this book: faith and science; morality and discovery; love and loyalty; perception and reality; greed and honor. And in the midst of all of these issues, you’ve got a fascinating love story and an honorable man that made me long for a simpler time. This is a book I won’t forget any time soon.

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11 Responses to Book Review: The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan

  1. Michelle says:

    I thought this was a fantastic book. It was weak scientifically, but the moral ambiguity of the experiment as well as Jeremiah’s experiences were so fascinating. I would love to see what a book club would do with this one.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Michelle – yes, I’m sure it would give a real scientist fits, but I loved the story. πŸ™‚

  2. Beth Hoffman says:

    When I first saw the cover of this book, I was intrigued; it’s so well done and stirred my imagination. And now, after reading your review, I’m hooked on the story. Just yesterday I promised myself that I’d stop buying books for at least 6 months as my shelves are buckling beneath the weight of the ones still to be read, but I just have to have this one!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Beth – it really is a must-read – and I agree, the cover is awesome!

  3. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I think the cover of this book is rather odd, but boy, have the reviews been great! I need to get a copy of it.

  4. irene says:

    I know Beth is an author, and she said it all, so I’ll just say ditto,

  5. Susan says:

    I’m in the middle of this novel now and I’m enjoying it very much. Thanks for not giving anything away though you sort of know going in how things turn out. It’s still a fun read. Thumbs up for The Curiosity!

  6. Pingback: Favorite speculative fiction of 2013 | BOOKS AND MOVIES