Blabbering of a Fool
Origin by Jessica Khoury: A Book Review
“I am the first and only of my kind, and I’ve been the first and the only for sixteen years. Now, there is only one thing I want: someone else who knows. Knows what it is to never bleed. Knows what it is to look ahead and see eternity.
Knows what it is to be surrounded by faces that you love, faces that will one day stop breathing and start to decay while your own will remain frozen outside of time.”
Pia is a girl of sixteen years, who is “made” and raised in a research facility known as Little Cambridge, or Little Cam for short. The facility houses a team of scientists dedicated to discovering the secret to immortality, and Pia is the first and only success thus far. Pia wants nothing more than to help her “family” achieve their goals, but to join their ranks, she has to prove her mettle first. She possesses an extensive knowledge of almost every academic subject, but knows nothing about the world outside Little Cam and her glass-walled room.
That is until she finds a hole in the electrified fence surrounding the facility, made by an uprooted tree. As an aspiring scientist, her intrinsic curiosity gets the better of her and she ventures out, and that is when she encounters a boy around her age for the very first time in her eternal life.
Origin is a debut novel by Jessica Khoury, and it really is a decent piece of science fiction. Through the eyes of Pia, Khoury explores the philosophy of immortality: the difference between the relativity of time for mortals and immortals, the cost-benefits of the measures taken to seek out its secrets, and whether being immortal makes one greater or lesser than human. Perhaps it is due to Khoury’s age (she’s 22, and I should be put to shame), but Pia’s troubles and monologues seem very real and relatable, for although she’s immortal, she is still an adolescent girl who is hungry to know more about the world beyond her own tiny one, information which has been suppressed from her since she was born.
And like almost all contemporary young adult fiction, this novel has romance as well, and I applaud Khoury for keeping it very pure and innocent, perfectly reflecting Pia’s lack of social experience and emotional urges of a growing teenager.
However, one qualm I have about this novel is the use of “bad science”, where science is vilified and scientists are immoral machinations who would stop at nothing to achieve the fruits of their labor. I felt it was too easy to dump all the faults onto the scientists, and making all other non-scientists characters saints.
The ending is also kind of like a deux ex machina, for although there is foreshadowing, it occurred a little too early in the book and slipped off my mind. However, it does make for a good “aha!” slap-on-the-forehead moment, and is rounded up very satisfyingly.
If you are looking for a science fiction title, and wish to break away from the usual concoction of space interspecies battles or uprising of artificial intelligence against humanity, Origin should possibly satisfy you.