Thursday, October 31, 2013

The First by Henry Harvey

The First, by Henry Harvey, is a novel about a brain transplant.  The plot line is a simple one where we have a critically injured adult male whose brain needs a body transplant. While the pre-purchase prĂ©cis on Amazon included the phrase "...but the donor they find is a brain-dead teenage girl" held some hopeful promise for this reader, taking the chance on buying it was a bit of a crap-shoot. Would this be just another mundane tale of forced feminization; maybe a "Frankentransian" horror tale; or, could it somehow offer a new and exciting twist on the subject?  In actuality, this novel was much more the later, but clearly not in the way this reviewer expected.

In some ways, namely as an extraordinarily exciting and well-written book that was more about terrorism, counter terrorism and religious extremism, in the context of where modern science may be heading, The First offers a scary and powerful projection of our present world direction. In so doing, it proved to be a lot more powerful a book than this reader ever expected. Heavy on military ordnance, FBI strategy and a realistic look into the mind of terrorists, this is a novel that may scare you a bit in its realism.

Lucky or perhaps very unluckily for our formerly male hero’s brain, the confluence of medical science and microchip technology make this all possible. How the wife, daughter and our hapless protagonist him/herself all deal with the switch is secondary to the fact that this type of transmogrification is just not ok in the minds of some folks. We're talking about those single-minded individuals who would rather kill you and destroy others to save your soul, rather than tolerate your blasphemy.

All-in-all, The First is a fine work. However, this reviewer is a bit sad to report that the much hoped for rise in the gender titillation meter fell significantly short of expectations. Although there were some potentially exciting forays into gender switch issues encountered by this married man (his brain anyway), these took a back seat as this cautionary tale was not so much about gender transformation as it is about the clash of modern day science and fundamentalist religion. In the final analysis though, being a bit disappointed was fine for me. I'll take it and you should too, because, simply put, The First is a genuine page turner.

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