I was happy to hear today that Requiem of the Human Soul was named one of the finalists in the Science Fiction category of the 2009 Reader Views Awards.
Here’s the review of the book by Reader Views from August 2009 by Paige Lovitt:
In the late 22nd century, earth is ruled by d-humans. These are people who have been genetically designed. Seen as superior beings, they view the primals, people who have been unaltered, as genetically inferior and frail. Primals are susceptible to getting diseases and genetic disorders. While d-humans might seem superior, somewhere along the way, they seem to have lost their soul.
When the UN proposes PEPS (Proposed Extinction of the Primal Species), primal Eusebio Franklin is chosen to defend the primals to allow their existence to continue. Having to review the often times violent history of primals, Eusebio gets questioned about their responsibility in the massacre of indigenous people and the forced extinction of species of animals. While history doesn’t look good for the primals a renegade group called the Rejectionists help Eusebio to see what the d-humans are up to. As with incidents that have taken place throughout our history that have murdered and wronged many, the d-humans don’t seem to be much different. They just seem to have better control over enforcing their goals. The Rejectionists offer Eusebio an opportunity to help save the future of the primals, but in taking action, Eusebio will be responsible for killing millions – including himself.
Eusebio has much to decide. Relying mainly on his heart and his love for his people, he tries to do what is right. He is an extremely spiritual soul who values the wisdom passed down from his ancestors. This makes Eusebio seem much more evolved than the d-humans.
“Requiem of the Human Soul” is incredibly deep and thought-provoking. The story is so much more than a fictional novel. Being that the book is set in the future, Eusebio would actually be representing me because I am a primal. Looking at the plot from this perspective really added to how I viewed the story and our violent history. It seems silly that Eusebio is on trial for atrocities committed by his ancestors, yet this attitude is pervasive today with many cultures and there are many people killing others in the name of their gods. Also, even though Eusebio was not physically genetically superior to the others, his soul made him so. Even though they might try, the soul is something that cannot be created by science. I highly recommend this novel, “Requiem of the Human Soul” by Jeremy R. Lent. I think that people who have interests in bio-ethics will really enjoy it.
“Achieves a near flawless rhythm as the narrative builds. His prose… is as gifted as it is fearless”
By Norm Goldman of The American Chronicle
On first glimpse, you might very well have considered Requiem of the Human Soul strictly a work of science fiction, however, Jeremy R. Lent has gone much further. He has constructed complex characters while probing the deepest reaches of their minds. To boot, Lent´s technical brilliance is awesome yet jarring as he permits each of his characters fashion a distinct radically different resolution while the reader is left to become the ultimate judge.
The setting is the late twenty-second century and Eusebio Franklin, a high school history teacher from the small community of Tuckers Corner is abducted by two d-humans, Harry Shields and Naomi Aramovich. Eusebio is a Primal or someone whose human DNA has not been tinkered or enhanced, unlike that of Shields and Aramovich´s DNA. The d-humans blame the Primals for genocides, devastation of indigenous cultures and the utter destruction of earth´s environment, as well as the mass extinction of many species of animals.
As a result, the United Nations has constituted a special hearing called The Proposed Extinction of the Primal Species (PEPS) that has been in existence for several years debating whether the Primals should be eliminated from the earth due to the past atrocious behavior of their ancestors.
At the time of the hearings there were seven billion d-humans in the world and three billion Primals. Aramovich and her fellow Primal Rights activists have chosen Eusebio to defend his race. Aramovich assumes the role of Eusebio´s defence attorney wile Shields is acting as the prosecuting attorney.
Shields divulges to Eusebio that the PEPS´s proposal is quite human, honest and legitimate. They are following due process and furthermore they are not acting like the Primals of the twenty-first century, saying one thing in the UN while permitting the exact opposite to happen in the real world. Basically, the plan involves changing the world by doing away with some of its innocent inhabitants. To accomplish this feat, a compound called Isotope 909 will be released and there will be a partial sterilization of the ovaries of all Primal women around the world. However, this will in no way affect d-human women. Furthermore, as it will only be partial sterilization, Primals, who have not had a child, will still be able to give birth once. The Primal species will eventually fade away, and this will be the final solution to the “Primal Question.” As soon as the Primal population reaches about twenty-five thousand, they will be safely placed in enclosed reservations. They won´t entirely disappear, as cloning techniques will be used to keep the Primal population stable.
While the hearing is unfolding, Eusebio receives a visit from the mysterious Yusef who calls himself a freedom fighter of the human race and who warns him that the hearing is a farce and he shouldn´t take part in it. He also reveals to Eusebio that he is a Rejectionist or d-humans who have refused to go along with the treaty known as the Global Aggression Limitation Treaty (GALT). This treaty, signed after the Great Global Wars, gave the UN global policing power with a full-time army. However, according to Yusef, GALT was in fact the struggle for the human race.
Eusebio wrestles with many challenging questions and soon realizes that there are no simplistic solutions. Is possible to defend the past actions of the Primals from a moral or ethical perspective? What does it mean to be human? Should humanity be given a second chance? Does anyone have the right to play God and alter DNA even if it means improving ourselves? What about our souls? If we do in fact believe in the human soul, would it survive if the DNA is modified? And above all, if Eusebio were asked to commit murder on a massive scale, would he agree to it if it meant saving the human race?
This is a cleverly crafted debut novel that achieves a near flawless rhythm as the narrative builds. There is a great deal of confusion and complexity here as Lent refrains from making his characters conduits for right and wrong. His prose mixed in with a healthy dose of science fiction is as gifted as it is fearless leaving readers in a state of exhaustion but surprisingly exhilarated to have the opportunity to partake in this most unusual hearing. Perhaps this was Lent’s objective? If so, he has succeeded admirably.
Review by Holly Chase Williams from Foreword Clarion Reviews
It is one of the great travesties of the human experience that violence is often perpetrated by those claiming to follow Jesus, Mohammed, and other spiritual leaders who advocated peace. Therefore, the premise of this novel, a genetic manipulation that deselects the twin capacities for spiritual belief and fanatical intolerance (aggression) in new humans, might seem like a wonderful idea. Except that in the process, these designer Humans may be losing their souls.
In the d-Human world of genetic pre-selection, the wealthy also have the most happiness, good looks, height, compassion, or whatever characteristic their parents paid for.
Eusebio Franklin, a history teacher in remote Tucker’s Corners who specializes in Native Americana, is forced to make an impassioned defense for the importance of spiritual belief and the future of the remaining three billion of “his” race—a definition that includes any non-genetically altered human. In actual human history, Eusebius was a historian and chronicler of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christ was allegedly buried.
Counsel Naomi Aramovich tells Eusebio that the unaltered “Primals,” “are the global underclass…who could never come close to affording even the most basic genetic enhancement. For the most part, they’re illiterate, starving, and diseased.”
As a member of a tech-avoidant, traditional Humanist community, Eusebio would seem to oppose everything the d-Humans stand for. But should he? What if every d-Human you saw seemed happy, healthy, engaged and purposeful? What if the d-Humans showed you that the vast majority of your fellow “Primals” lived in dire conditions?
Author Jeremy Lent holds a master’s degree in English literature from Emmanuel College in Cambridge, England. His first novel flows quickly but smoothly, pulling the reader into Eusebio’s ethical struggles and his arguments about our direct ancestors’ destruction of cultures, indigenous animals, and entire environments.
While Eusebio grapples with questions about the motives of the lawyers trying his case at the United Nations hearing and the trustworthiness of the mysterious Yusef, who claims to be a freedom fighter for the unaltered minority, readers will pause to consider an even larger question: How responsible are we for the actions of our ancestors? For Eusebio, the ultimate question is: Does humanity deserve another chance?
Requiem of the Human Soul is a gripping read that will keep readers up at night, slurping up the last few pages like a specialty juice from the future world’s neighborhood Betelbar.
Review by Eric Jones from BookReview.com
There is no medium that captures the human soul better than music. That’s right; music. That’s why I’m always dubious about books that come across my desk with the word “soul” in the title, already it seems that the author has taken on too much. So I was surprised to find that Jeremy R. Lent’s “Requiem of the Human Soul” was not about the human soul at all, but about race. A Phillip K. Dick-esque run through a post-modern world where humans are seen as inferior to a new super-race, and next in line for a final solution.
It’s clear from the get-go that Lent knows his craft. His future world of the genetically enhanced d-humans is stunningly rendered with thought given to nearly every facet of their technologically enhanced culture to make them seem as real as any corporation that might exist today. Eusebio Franklin, a school teacher living in what’s known as a “humanist community”, is unacquainted with these stark societal advances, and makes the perfect vessel through which our own unacquainted eyes to inhabit and gaze in wonder. Still, Lent lends little time to gazing, since there is some serious business at hand. Franklin has been chosen to represent the last of the natural humans in a debate on whether they should be weeded out of d-human society by selective sterilization which would render them unable to breed. A humane genocide, if you will.
Eusebio is forced to undertake a series of excruciating virtual reality tours which force him to experience some of the atrocities of humanity’s past. Then answer questions hurled at him by a sly lawyer named Henry Shields, who proves to be an antagonist just as worthy as Dr. Zeus to Charlton Heston’s role of Taylor in “Planet of the Apes”. At first Shields seems indomitable, and with a strength of conviction that makes even Eusebio unsure of humanity’s right to prevail. In Shields, the book’s underlying themes of racism are fleshed out.
Lent’s masterful structuring effectively puts humanity in the position of any race that’s ever been discriminated against for being different, and forces the reader, through Eusebio, to bear witness to our own checkered history as justification for its current predicament. The Nazi’s “Final Solution” is referred to in direct reference to the d-human’s PEPS proposal which will sterilize the remaining un-augmented humans. Eusebio is forced to live out a virtual reality experience as a Native American during the massacre at Sand Creek, Colorado in 1864. Given such suffocating prejudice, it becomes no surprise later when Eusebio makes the uncharacteristic turn to terrorism in defense of his people, unable to gain any ground diplomatically with Sheilds.
The question of whether or not humanity has a soul becomes the unwitting bottom line in these sessions although, in my opinion, it is the book’s weakest point. Although the chapters are punctuated to great effect by lyrics from songs like Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and John Lennon’s “Mind Games” and speaks to musicians’ faithful capturing of the human soul, the story can’t quite compete. Eusebio’s case comes down to proving that humans without genetic augmentation, or “Primals”, are the only ones with actual souls. Not souls in a metaphoric or religious context, since the book doesn’t seem to inhabit such circles, but a scientifically viable soul. His quest to find such proof seems to bypass the central theme of racism and places d-humans in the position of soulless aliens rather than a dominating race. And since the soul, I would say, doesn’t exist scientifically it would seem that the connection between Lent’s world and our own is broken here. Not to mention that there is a much better argument for Eusebio to make in counter to Shield’s constant condemnation of Primals that he misses completely by chasing down the soul.
The human-d are a young race. Their creation and rise to power are cleverly documented in sub-chapters that take the form of various news and texts on genetic enhancement and the winds of social change that underscore the novel’s themes of science and race. But while Eusebio is attacked for his people’s history of genocide he neglects to mention that the human-d are on the road to creating just such a history themselves with their PEPS initiative. (I will admit that Eusebio’s council, Naomi, mentions it in passing, but only to change the subject of Shield’s questioning. Not as a defense.) The central line of Lent’s novel comes from Shield’s after the Native American massacre. He says, “Which soul is it, exactly, that the PEPS proposal would be eliminating? The soul of those brave white men who destroyed the American Indians, mutilating their corpses? Or the soul of the indigenous people?” Rather than answer, Eusebio listens to his council and Shields debate over the question. This is the question that never really gets answered in “Requiem of the Human Soul”, rather it devolves into one of whether or not the soul actually exists, and if so, does it exist in the human-d as well? Those answers, and their meaning, I’ll leave for you to discover in the amazing future world of “Requiem”.
Please forgive my venture into thematic analysis. It is a testament to the lofty aspirations of “Requiem” and the amazing heights to which is soars in reaching for them. Ambitious in nature and meticulous in design, “Requiem of the Human Soul” is one of the greatest independently published science fiction novels of our time. Rather than creating a fun diagram of future events that speculate on processes to come, Lent does what any good writer of sci-fi should do. He speaks to our current culture through the use of a future where self is not assured, where terrorism is called policy, and peace is only a silent war against humanity. With the canons turned against us, what hope is left but for the triumph of the human soul?
Reviewed by Kelly A. Harmon on SFReader.com
Requiem of the Human Soul is a frightening vision of what the future could hold: one in which the human race is on trial. It’s a world in which d-humans –those who have been genetically enhanced–have accused the primals–humans without any genetic enhancement–of being responsible for the extinction of hundreds of species of animals and humans, as well as the instigators of global warming and the destruction of Earth’s environment.
If proven to be at fault, the primals will be gathered together, placed into refugee camps, and through sterilization will fade into extinction after several generations.
Eusebio Franklin, a primal and history professor, has been kidnapped from his tiny, isolated, home of Tuckers Corner and transported to New York City to be put on trial. In Lent’s world, New York is a futuristic city of sky transport and robot waiters. Franklin plays the role of country bumpkin, led by his lawyer as the trial progresses. Out of his element in the big city, Franklin becomes the voice of all primals in the future. It’s his ignorance of technology, and his solid knowledge of history and people, which makes him so believable a witness for the primals.
The story gets more complicated as Franklin is clandestinely contacted by a member of the Rejectionists who urge him not to testify at the hearing. Rejectionists are d-humans who believe they have scientific proof that genetically enhancing humans erases their ability to commune with God, that becoming genetically enhanced, erases the human soul.
Yusef educates Franklin on several laws and treaties which have passed in the last century that Franklin, in his isolated community knows nothing about. He also tells Franklin that the d-humans don’t intend to allow primals to die out gradually in the next several generations, but intend to make them immediately sterile via Isotope 919. In one generation, primals will cease to exist. Though Franklin chooses to testify, Yusef remains in contact with him, continuing to educate him, wooing him to the Rejectionist point of view.
At a low point in the trial, when Franklin is feeling there’s no hope, Yusef gives Franklin the means to make a point: he provides him with a nuclear device and urges him to detonate it in order to save the human race.
Lent creates a plausible story, skillfully setting up the case for each side of the argument. I found myself agreeing at turns, first with the primals, then with the d-humans, and back again as the courtroom drama unfolded.
His vision of the future is both exciting and unnerving. Genetic enhancement allows children to grow up disease free, intelligent and beautiful. The genes of the famous athletes, writers, and geniuses are for sale allowing parents to choose specific traits for their offspring. People can take ‘virtual-fieldtrips’ using technology so advanced, you can see, feel, taste, hear and experience any place as if you are there…yet remain comfortably seated in your easy chair. But in the future your honesty is in question: courtrooms are equipped with neurographic witness chairs capable of determining if you lie, and alerting all spectators in the courtroom immediately when a neurographic incident takes place.
My only gripe with the novel is the largely unnecessary Chapter 11, which is a long history of Franklin and his wife Sarah. We don’t need to know about the first time they made love or how they met as children. It’s enough to know, when the story opens, that Sarah is long dead and Franklin still mourns her. The chapter spends significant time on her death, making the point that Sarah died because primals lack adequate healthcare for advanced diseases. Sarah died of ovarian cancer, untreatable because as d-human health is imperviable to such a disease, there are no longer facilities to treat it. Sarah and Franklin needed to apply to the CHD–the Center for Historic Diseases–in order to find help. The treatment would have cost more than they could have afforded and so Sarah died.
I don’t find it plausible that the medical community would relegate the means to treat a disease to a museum just because most people don’t suffer from it anymore. As our ability to treat new illnesses is often built on the knowledge of treating former ailments, it doesn’t make sense to me that such knowledge would be abandoned. Though cases are few and far between, we still have the ready means to treat scurvy, polio and the bubonic plague today.
Nonetheless, Requiem of the Human Soul is a fascinating read, dropping us into Franklin’s mind and immediately into the heart of the matter right from the very beginning.