This thought-provoking debut novel offers something exceedingly rare of late for science fiction readers: hope.
Set in the near future, the story revolves around retired oil executive Peter Wilson, an elderly widower who is living out the rest of his days in Melbourne near his beloved niece Zoe, who calls him “Grandad.” Peter spends his days playing chess with Zoe and contemplating the economic, environmental, and political problems plaguing humankind.
But then a seemingly benevolent entity known as the Bearing—an alien communal intelligence—contacts Peter with a mind-blowing proposition: If Peter agrees to be the planet’s overseer while the Bearing attempts to save humankind from itself, he will get a completely reconstructed body (he’ll essentially be 18 years old again) and access to technology beyond his wildest dreams.
Although the concepts explored in this novel—the first in the Rejuvenation trilogy—are undoubtedly visionary and fodder for lively discussion, the storyline suffers from a few major flaws. Once Peter and crew begin their mission to save humankind by reorganizing the planetary government, the story loses its intimate feel as it begins to focus on crises in various regions, rather than on character development. Additionally, some of the aforementioned emergencies—such as America’s medical system and terrorist activity in the Middle East—are only superficially explored and solved too easily, and many of the characters’ personal problems are fixed by a never-ending supply of money.
But the elephant in the room is Peter’s stomach-turning relationship with Zoe after the Bearing makes him young again; they end up in an intimate relationship, and “Grandad” and his niece eventually marry and have kids. While there is much to like in the story, this uncomfortable development is hard to overlook.
In sum, this is a wonderfully optimistic science fiction novel whose thematic power is undeniably weakened by an incestuous hero at world’s end.
Also available as an ebook.