BY THADDEUS ARJUNA
I’ve received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Evolution of Eve is about a human colony on Mars. Raphael and her husband Tom discover that their daughter, Eve, a clone – an experiment to battle the human sterility pandemic – is a Martian. This complicates the husband-wife relationship because Raphael wants a human colony, but Tom believes that Martians are the next stage of human evolution.
There’s a lot happening in this book from rogue cyborgs to shady military and if you’re someone like me who enjoys epic tales with complicated plots and several povs, this narrative structure would likely work for you. However, if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, you will probably find this book a challenge.
I am going to begin with what I found compelling. The premise is strong and believable. I can imagine that we will at some point in the future have to face the ethical and economical question of whether we should colonise Mars and what would happen if we did? We will also reach a point where Earth is potentially uninhabitable. And I am sure there will be a debate about whether to save Earth or start again on another planet. In fact, the book’s premise was so convincing, it gave me chills.
Another aspect I found convincing to the point of disturbing, is Raphael’s reaction to Eve’s transformation into a Martian. There’s a line that particularly resonated with me where Eve says to her terrified mother, “before they come to me, they will always blame you.” It’s a common occurrence for mothers of disabled children, particularly those on the autism spectrum, to get blamed for their child’s peculiarities. I have to admit, when reading it, I was taken back to a similar conversation with my own mother. There are also other lines, such as, “Mars cheated my family.” This is very similar to what we hear today with parents of autistic children, “autism stole my baby.”
What I wish could have been stronger is the dialogue. The characters sometimes sound as if they’re reading from a script and often a character’s dialogue starts with the name of the person they’re speaking to. It’s something I’m hyper aware of, because I make this same mistake in my own writing.
However, my biggest issue is with the characterisation of Raphael and the author’s approach to her bipolar disorder. This is a condition I also suffer from and I felt the author was unsympathetic to the character. For example, whenever Rafael gets emotional, her husband, Tom, insists that she take her meds. She’s constantly paranoid, skips her medication and thinks her child is a monster. Her husband refers to her as a “danger” to the family and his friend calls her “manipulative.” She even at one point takes out some “clipping shears” and runs down the corridor of their house, screaming “I am going to take care of this right now!”. I am not saying every person with bipolar is a saint, but when the only narrative in literature is this unstable demon narrative, it starts to become a stereotype. And unfortunately, Raphael is another such stereotype.
As someone who lives with bipolar, I can swear hand on heart that I have never run down any corridor holding a sharp implement and threatening another human being. In fact, I’ve never run down a corridor screaming with or without a sharp implement.
In fact, this portrayal ruined the book for me, and I am disappointed because it’s a good story, marred only by the characterisation of Raphael. On that basis, I cannot recommend this book.