Theory of Bastards

Audrey Schulman. Europa (PRH, dist.), $18 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-60945-437-1
Schulman’s wonderful, intricate novel (following Three Weeks in December) is set in the palpably near future. When the superstar of the biological research world, 33-year-old Frankie Burke, joins the team at an ape foundation in the Midwest, she thinks things are finally falling into place. She has just undergone major surgery to eliminate the chronic pain from endometriosis she’s suffered from since childhood, she is fresh off a MacArthur “genius grant,” and she now has a fascinating group of bonobos to help test her wild new theory about evolution—that women cheat on men because children born of extramarital affairs have evolutionary advantages. What she doesn’t plan on is the arrival of a dust storm, which causes a power outage, rendering useless the technology that keeps the foundation functioning—from the screens and cameras in the researchers’ eyes to the 3-D printer that feeds the apes. She also doesn’t plan on the closeness she develops with Stotts, her ex-military fellow researcher, or the relationships she will build with the creatures she cares for, or the harrowing journey they’ll all have to take together out of the research station. Schulman’s vision of the future is powerful and strange, but it is less a commentary on society’s dependence on technology than a propulsive story rooted in a future that feels possible. The incorporation of research into the narrative is seamless, and the result is an astute, impeccable page-turner readers will savor. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/19/2018
Release date: 04/24/2018
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