Sunday, August 17, 2014

7 Heart Review: The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan

The Curiosity
Stephen Kiernan

Page Count: 464

Release Date: July 1st 2014 (paperback edition)
Publisher: William Morrow Books (Harper Collins)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by tour publicist via publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

What if the love of your life died decades before you were born?

When Dr. Kate Philo and her scientific exploration team discover the body of a man buried deep in the Arctic ice, her egocentric and paranoid boss, Erastus Carthage, orders the frozen man to be brought to his lab in Boston and reanimated. The endeavor is named The Lazarus Project, and as the man, Jeremiah Rice, begins to regain his memories, the last thing he recalls is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906. When news of the project breaks, it ignites a media firestorm and protests by religious fundamentalists.

Thrown together by fate, Kate and Jeremiah grow closer. But the clock is ticking and Jeremiah’s new life is slipping away. With Carthage planning to exploit Jeremiah while he can, Kate must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the man she has come to love. A gripping, poignant, and thoroughly original thriller, The Curiosity raises disturbing questions about the very nature of life and humanity.
"When hard ice forms, any creatures in the water undergo extremely rapid freezing—so fast that the usual crystals of ice do not form. That speed leaves cells intact, and with unique chemical properties, namely abundant oxygen and glucose. Everything is preserved as it was when alive. Our challenge is to guide it back. Observe."

When love's timeline is limited, does it make that love any less meaningful? Reading the premise of The Curiosity sent a thrill reverberating through my body. From the Frankenstein-meets-The-Time-Traveler's-Wife storyline, to the ultimate romantic tragedy of finding a soulmate from another time and place—another plane—this was the kind of sci-fi novel I knew I had been waiting for for a long time. The good news is, in so many ways, this book blew my mind with its originality and argumentative depth. The bad news is, in so many more ways, it also disappointed me. My feelings, clearly, are mixed.

The Curiosity is narrated in the alternating voices of four arguably essential figures behind the Lazarus Project: Kate (the jaded scientist), Carthage (her controlling, mad-genius supervisor), Jeremiah (the judge and human subject), and Daniel (a seedy, seemingly useless reporter with an inflated sense of self-importance). Each point of view gives interesting perspectives on the discovery of the "unfrozen" man, Jeremiah, and the muddiness and uncertainty between these three characters are what contribute to most of the novel's tension—this was very well done.

Kiernan has the tendency to go into specific, sometimes rambly detail about, well, everything. I love how his style is both straightforward and analytical—like the scientific method—yet still profound. However, sometimes I felt like it was a bit too much; frequently, there is elaboration on what doesn't need to be elaborated, and it was frustrating and quite laborious to have to skim through all that to get to the good parts. And trust me—when The Curiosity got good, it got really good. The most exciting scenes of the novel—namely, Jeremiah's reanimation—are absolutely electrifying; they will make your heart pound wildly against your ribcage and your fingers tremble. These are the scenes that motivated me to continue reading the book, and that surpassed my expectations. But considering these brilliant pieces were so few and far between—nestled within long chunks of backstory and redundant ruminations—and clocking in at 464 pages, The Curiosity wasn't exactly an easy, or overall enjoyable, read.

In terms of actual writing style, Stephen Kiernan is no doubt, extremely talented. His voice flows vibrantly and cinematically, but gets stiff during Kate's narrations; she just doesn't seem relatable or likable to me. It bothered me that Daniel had to comment about how "hot" she is every few pages, in order for her attractiveness to be conveyed, but more importantly, she personally doesn't feel genuine. I'm unsure of whether this is because her female perspective was written by a man, or if her personality was just built like that—rigid and impersonal—but I hardly found myself rooting for her as the protagonist.

Since romance is among my favorite genres, I am typically a huge sucker for these types of "falling in love at the most inopportune moment" stories, but I felt the romance was misplaced in this situation. Kiernan begins with a sensational plot, but adding the romance in kind of cheapened it. Given the circumstances of high-profile scientific research and Kate's professional career, I was turned off by how her first encounter with Jeremiah immediately turned into a romance—it felt inappropriate, and largely, unbelievable. It was very well written and I did find myself being swept away by the angst that came with Kate's budding affection for the off-limits Jeremiah, but overall, I think The Curiosity could have been successful not being a love story.

While romance is not the biggest accomplishment of this novel, the intensity of thought-provoking questions raised, certainly is. Obviously, an ethical debate will come naturally with a storyline about a man who becomes a lab specimen, and the fact that Jeremiah is humanized by becoming the object of Kate's attachment further heightens the issue of morals and ethics. Both the scientific rationalizations and the convoluted line of events present readers with heart-stopping revelations and the frenzy that follows, and this was what made The Curiosity so provocative and so stimulating. To me, this novel isn't simply about a man who is revived, and a woman who loves him, but it's about two lost people who experience everything for the first time in their lives again; people who, through each other, are brought back to life.

Pros


Creative, captivating plot // Multi-dimensional and deep-delving storytelling, rather than just spelling out what happens // Perspectives of different characters are very distinct (and switch from first to second to third person, something I've never encountered before) // Thought-provoking and controversial in topic

Cons


Long-winded writing style // Bland, rather unmemorable characters, even when given emotions and a backstory // I had trouble sympathizing with Kate, which in turn, defeated the purpose of the "tragic romance" for me

Verdict


The Curiosity is a fascinating study on human vulnerability, the virtues of love, the astonishing power of science, but it's also a rather bulky novel. Due to its drawn-out chapters and massive page count, I didn't have that much fun reading it, but do I recommend it to others? Yes, yes yes! It's an impressive debut, a force to be reckoned with. Stephen Kiernan begins with an original plotline and cleverly interconnected multiple perspectives to produce a thought-provoking, challenging, and incredibly dynamic debut that I can see doing well on the big screen (luckily, 20th Century Fox has already bought film rights!!!). I suggest you only pick this up if you have a lot of patience and some time on your hands—as much of a page-turner as this book is, it is NOT something you can read within a few sittings Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; borrow, don't buy! (x)