Review: The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan

Disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader Edition of The Curiosity: A Novel from Harper Collins Publishers for review purposes. All opinions remain my own.

The Curiosity - Stephen P. Kiernan

How do you explain a book that moved you so thoroughly you had to consider your thoughts on it for weeks after completion before you could even begin to form the words? This is a curiosity indeed.

In Stephen P. Kiernan’s latest novel, The Curiosity, we are forced to reckon with our personal definitions of where life begins and ends–and if it ends at all. Can we trust what we’ve been told? Or do we need to listen to our hearts? Has what makes us human been abandoned in the pursuit of fame, fortune, and glory? And just how far would a person go to achieve them–or throw them all away?

Those are a lot of questions. But it’s hard not to think deeply as you progress through this book. This is no beach read.

Dr. Kate Philo thinks she has made the discovery of a lifetime when she finds a man frozen in hard ice in the Arctic Ocean–a man her employer wants to re-animate. It’s been done before with microscopic ocean life, though the results have been less than stellar. What she hasn’t counted on is how different it will be to run an experiment on a human being.

Judge Jeremiah Rice didn’t ask to be brought back to life. One moment he was in the ocean, having fallen off a ship in 1906, and the next, he is awakened a hundred years later. He is granted a second chance at life, after one that was cut too short. But how much of a life can you live in a lab? People are protesting his reanimation as heresy, others can’t wait to get close to him, hoping a touch of fame will rub off on them, and through it all, there seems to be only one who doesn’t view him as a curiosity–Kate.

Initially, I was intimidated by the clinical tone of the book. On the expedition and shortly thereafter, the story was difficult to work through. But as Judge Rice evolved from the experiment–the bonus bit of genetic material that could be sustained far longer than any of the microscopic beings preceding him–to the man Kate falls for, it occurred to me that this may have been intentional. Are we meant to travel the same journey to awareness that Kate does, seeing that there is more to science than what is on the slab? That life is more what you fill the time you have with than a series of chemical reactions, code and equations? Perhaps.

Regardless, the last hundred pages held my full attention and when it was over, I was left stunned. The Curiosity remained with me for quite some time after, tossing about at the back of my mind, questioning me. What if? What if, in my lifetime, such a curiosity were to occur–such a wonder were to happen, against all odds and reasoning otherwise? Would it make me question everything–what lies in the afterlife, and if there is one at all–what it means to be “alive” or “dead” and if our definitions are simply too black and white to appreciate all the grays in between? Every time a man is resuscitated after a heart attack–every time a child is delivered early to save its life–we touch on this curiosity. It is not so far outside the miracles that happen in every day life: the things we take for granted without further examination. And yet, we go on like this is no big deal at all. That may be even more curious.

I think I need to read this a second time. I feel like there is so much more to be unearthed.

The Curiosity goes on sale today. I highly recommend picking up a copy!

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