Review by Kelly A. Harmon at 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.
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