It has been a while since I’ve had the time or a sufficient connection to the internet with which to post something more meaningful. I hope you all had a good holiday! Mine has been quite full to say the very least, and while I know that college starts again on the 17th, I’d swear that classes got out for Christmas only a week ago… Oh well. No matter how short the vacation was, it was still time off, and I’m thankful for it. Just know that when school starts again, I’ll be able to blog more often: it definitely helps when you have a reliable connection to the web. But, the time off has helped me get back some of my personal priorities too, like writing (I’ve made some new leeway in SOTD, but I’ll talk more of that at a later time) and like… sleep. In fact, sleep has become so much a priority that sometimes my parents become aggravated; they ask how a person can spend so much time with their eyes closed, and I tell them it’s to make up for a whole semester of trying desperately to stay awake 24/7. Lol! College takes its toll, my friends. Especially when you fill your class schedule with as much as you can manage. I really need to fix that… :P
But enough chit-chat!
Today I’m writing a review for Jill Williamson’s newest book just recently released through Zondervan, titled “Replication”. I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive an invitation for an ARC. Jill is one of the most respected authors on my long and still growing list of favorite authors, and one of the most anticipated. I haven’t posted a review on her “Blood of Kings” trilogy yet, but I will be posting one sometime this year (when I finish the third book. ;D). Besides that however, who wouldn’t be intrigued by the premise? A main character named Martyr? A farm solely dedicated to cloning humans? What’s not to like? :D
Here’s the blurb so you can read it for yourself:
Abby Goyer may have just moved to Alaska, but she has a feeling something strange is going on at the farm where her father works. But even this smart, confident girl could never have imagined what lies beneath a simple barn. Or what would happen when a mysterious boy shows up at her door asking about the stars.
As the reality of the Jason Experiment comes to light, Martyr is caught between two futures – the one for which he was produced, and the one Abby believes God created him to have. Time is running out, and Martyr must decide if a life with Abby is work leaving everything he’s ever known.
Now about the author:
Also, a word in edgewise, Jill is simply a really awesome person to hang around. I don’t know her very well, but I was able to meet her once in person and it was such an honor. If first impressions are anything to go by, Jill made a good one. She was kind, fun-loving, and she smiled a lot. And come on! What’s not to love about setting out to meet one of your favorite authors for the first time, and having her greet you wearing a medieval Lord of the Rings style dress. ;)
My thoughts about the book: WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
Replication was not quite what I anticipated… it was much better! When I first started looking into the book, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. How would the clones be portrayed? Why had they never seen sky? Just what exactly did Abby’s father do? I wondered at first if the book wouldn’t have similar qualities to the movie i-robot (which is, by the way, one of my favorite futuristic films.) My mind predicted clichés in Science Fiction, and I pondered the possibilities.
I shouldn’t have worried… my mind couldn’t have been more wrong.
Replication is all about finding God’s purpose for our life and living out that purpose to the fullest. And what is that purpose exactly? Why, it’s living for Him, of course!
The main character, Martyr, is quite simple upon first glance, but we soon find out that he’s much more complicated than his “creators” ever thought likely. They knew he was smart, but they didn’t expect his ability to mentally think over problems to work so well, nor did they think his endless questioning would actually render useful answers.
Martyr’s one wish to see the sky before he expires is what first compels him to disobey the rules. Now for him, this is hard as he doesn’t like to lie – at all – which is an intriguing quality in Martyr’s character that brought into retrospect several interesting thoughts about the consequences of lying. Martyr is also very naïve, an aspect that has him asking curious (and sometimes almost embarrassing) questions throughout the course of the book. This aspect also has him regret simple sins that most of us in today’s world would overlook entirely or justify. That fact in itself was an eye-opener, but it was written into the book in such a way that it wasn’t overwhelming.
Having lived his whole life without ever seeing the outside world, Martyr’s first glimpse of some things in our world – like the sky, the sun, a moose, a car – all were slightly choppy and vague, pieced together with what little he already knew of the world. This was a most satisfying element in Martyr’s character, and one that isn’t exactly easy to pull off, but Jill managed to do it with grace and believability. It’s like a writer asking themselves, “How would I describe something of this nature to a blind person? Or a person who has never seen it before and has no notion of what it is?” The trouble is always in keeping elements that you yourself find obvious knowledge out of the description, and comparing the experience to things that the character would already know.
Here’s an example from the book so that you can see what I mean. It depicts the first time Martyr get’s a good glimpse at the sky:
The sky stretched overhead like a very high, blue ceiling – a lighter color of blue than the picture of Myrtle Beach, but darker than Rolo’s eyes. The sun hung up in the sky, as well, somehow staying there without falling to the ground. It did not have a smiling face or long beams stretching out on all sides like the pictures Dr. Max had drawn. It was a pale, round ball of brightness. It hurt his eyes to start at the sun, so he studied the clouds instead. They were fluffy and white like the snow. (he had already seen snow at this point.)
I thought Jill managed this part of Martyr’s character very well. It was almost like I was seeing these things for the first time too, as I was reading the book. Notice that the sky was like a ceiling, something Martyr had seen before, and the sun was not like the smiley faced drawing he had been shown in the past. These descriptions kept the experience alive and fresh in my mind to the very end of the book.
Of course, the questions Jill posed in this book were good ones: Are clones actually “people”? If they were “created” (so to speak) by man, then did they actually have a purpose beyond the one given to them by man?
In the book, the character of Abby Goyer certainly believed so. Abby is a Christian, though her father is not. She is the one who befriends Martyr in the outside world. Martyr, curious about anything and everything, asks Abby some simple questions about her faith and God which then turn into more complicated ones. Why does she “pray” over her food? Who is she talking to? And so forth and so on. The most interesting thing about these questions was that they truly played on Abby’s knowledge of her faith. How was she going to explain these simple acts that she had taken for granted all of her life to a person who had never, ever heard of such a thing before? And the hardest part was that Martyr’s questions grew larger and more complicated, until she didn’t have answers for them at all.
This part of the story really got me thinking about how well I know my own faith. I’m a Christian, but just how well do I actually know what that means and entails? Or do I just go through the motions half the time, like Abby did on occasion, doing simple things just because it goes along with my faith? And what exactly is my faith? What does it mean, and why do I believe as I do? These questions should all be simple… I’ve faced them before, as most Christians have at one time or another. But the book started me thinking about them again. And, one of the best parts of the book, in my opinion, was watching Martyr come into his faith. He would do things that seemed so simple and sweet… and sometimes things that even Abby couldn’t understand.
(BIG SPOILER ALERT!)
Like when he gave one of his kidneys to the doctor who had cloned him and was going to kill him for both kidneys. Abby asked why he would do such a thing, and clearly thought that he didn’t have to and really shouldn’t have. After all, Dr. Kane, who was dying slowly of Lupus, had been planning the whole time to kill Martyr for no other reason than he wanted his kidneys. Dr. Kane’s justification was that Martyr was a clone, clearly not a real human, and therefore the act was not really murder at all. But as the story progresses there was no doubt in my mind (as I’m sure there will not be in yours) that Martyr and all of the other clones were most definitely human and that Dr. Kane’s actions would have been murder, whether he thought so or not.
Martyr’s answer to Abby’s question opened Abby’s eyes to a completely new meaning and depth of the faith that she called her own. He said simply, “Because Jesus would have done it.”
Abby’s reply was that Jesus didn’t have the option of giving away his kidney, especially to a criminal man like Dr. Kane.
But then Martyr quoted from the book of Luke: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. And then he tells Abby, “I have done so for Dr. Kane. That was my purpose for him.”
Wow. I mean really, WOW. That depth, that understanding of God’s true purpose for us… it’s all written right there in the Bible, but how many of us actually think of that verse’s meaning to the extent that Martyr did? How many of us take God’s word and truth that far?
This book was an eye opener. Not only was it compelling science fiction that kept me turning pages long into the night, but it held truths and perceptions that I had either not thought of before, or that I had let my understanding of them go rusty. This was a book well worth reading.
The one trouble I had with the book (and mind you, it is a very small trouble), was how Martyr killed Dr. Elliot. I know it was a sort of pre-considered self defense, and that both Dr. Elliot and Martyr had a mutual dislike of one another… and I know that Dr. Elliot was just plain cruel, partially for the sake of being cruel… but I saw no remorse in Martyr afterward, and for a boy who would give an evil scientist one of his kidneys because that’s what God would have wanted, this seemed partially uncharacteristic.
However, that was just one small scene. Hardly more than a few paragraphs really. Let it not dissuade you from picking up this most excellent book.
I give this book 4 ½ stars out of 5. It was an epic read, and quite memorable for me. That in itself is something to say, as I have read many books, but only a few hold places on my “memorable” list. ;) This is one of them. It’s fresh, funny in all the right places, serious when it needs to be, and fast paced all through. It’s not like any science fiction book I’ve ever read before, and I’ve read enough to tell. I highly recommend this one.
Good luck, Jill, with your other writing endeavors. I know I look forward to reading future books by you. God bless.
And God bless all of you reading this! Go pick up this book: it is definitely worth it. ^_^
Until next time, my friends, HAPPY WRITING! And reading.