“It’s the fate of all creators: they fall in love with their creations.”
The maker-creation binary is at the heart of Eve & Adam, the latest release from YA authors Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate. However, it’s not as simple as this snappy sentence above might suggest.
The fact that these words are spoken by Terra Spiker, a woman who treats her daughter Eve with about as much care and affection as Dr Frankenstein did his monster, and who simultaneously merrily presides over a company whose secret project involves vat-grown humans, is testament to that.
Grant and Applegate are known for exploring often challenging themes and questions within what might be taken superficially as slight, action-oriented novels for young adults, and Eve and Adam is no different. It’s not a subtle novel, but then, neither was Frankenstein and, hey, neither was Genesis. There’s plenty of slick science, plenty of action, and plenty of fast-talking teen banter, sure. But in addition to all of this there’s a thorough exploration of what it means to fill the various maker roles, what it means to be a creation, and the conflicts that spring up between the two.
We meet Eve (an abbreviation of Evening, a name that which offers a notable contrast to the meanings we take from Eve) as she hurtles through the air after a terrible accident. Although her injuries are severe, including the loss of a leg, she’s taken to her billionaire mother’s headquarters, where with the help of teen employee Solo, she quickly recuperates. Far too quickly, actually. Eve has her suspicions that something’s not quite right about the whole thing, as does Solo, whom we learn has been adopted by Terra Spiker after being orphaned. Solo is on a mission to bring down Spiker Biopharmaceuticals, and it’s a mission he becomes even more passionate about when he learns that Eve has been given a holiday project involving creating a perfectly lifelike simulation of a human. Because with Spiker’s hazy ethical track record, there’s every likelihood that this simulation’s going to be a little too real for comfort.
The plot unfolds fairly much as you expect it will, and to be honest I was a little disappointed by the book’s narrative bluntness. The various character reveals worked well enough (no one is who they seem), although there were several elements that just didn’t quite sit right with me. The reasoning behind Solo’s involvement at Spiker Biopharm felt a little hazy, and I couldn’t quite suspend disbelief during the action scenes that took place outside the Spiker headquarters. I found the subplot involving Eve’s creation quite weak as well: it didn’t seem to build with any real rhythm, and simply felt as though it ebbed away at the end. This is, as far as I know, the first in a series, but even so I didn’t quite feel that the resolution quite worked.
Perhaps my biggest bugbear with the whole book was the use of sexually overt misogyny to belittle the female teen characters. This was baffling to me, particularly given that the women in this book are otherwise empowered. I simply can’t imagine a women of Terra Spiker’s status letting loose with a constant barrage of “sluts” and “whores” when talking about her daughter’s friend. “You have one friend and she’s a drunken slut,” she sneers at one point; this language is repeated over and over. Gratuitous misogyny is also an issue during the book’s climax, where our Evil Scientist character gloatingly says to Solo: “You haven’t tapped that little piece yet?” Why is it that antagonists are so often rendered as being sexually deviant, and why, in such a gratuitous manner? Honestly, if you’re going about kidnapping people and generally being awful, I will quite readily conclude that you’re not a nice person without being slugged with an additional cheap misogynistic blow.
These issues aside, however, I did enjoy the exploration of the different maker-creator notions–the creator, the birth mother, and the adoptive mother–and the fact that almost all of the major characters filled at least two of these. When stitched together, a fascinating web of maker-creator connections arises, and the tension around each of these is so palpable that you can almost hear it humming. Of the main characters, it’s Terra and Eve who experience the most different connections, and perhaps it’s this that also leads to their ever more conflicted relationship. When Eve effectively adopts her friend Aislin, for example, it’s a relationship that resonates both through Eve and through Terra as well. She also adds additional depth to her relationship between herself and her “Adam” by giving him a name–something that Frankenstein fails to do to his own monster.
Eve’s conflict over creating Adam is also fascinating, particularly as she’s playing the God role while Aislin, playing that of the devil, hovers over her shoulder urging her to ignore her natural desire for balance and to embrace what’s effectively a sort of creative hedonism. “Everyone should have flaws,” thinks Eve. “Isn’t that what makes us interesting?” Aislin, on the other hand, thinks that it’s inevitable that Eve should seek out perfection in her creation, after all, she does as much when she’s contemplating guys to date. As she continues her work, Eve begins to appreciate the challenge of creation:
“I could make him reckless and bold. He might die younger. He might be a criminal. He might be a great creative mind. This is not the simple, fun artwork of making a face and a body…this isn’t as simple as it looks.”
Interestingly, her creation is done beneath the shadow of Terra, who’s almost frighteningly goddess-like (and I do love that the creators in this book, as alluded to by the book’s title, are female). Whatever creative affordances Eve has in her little lab, they’re nothing compared with those of Terra. Her name’s evocative enough, but the fact that she’s a billionaire who has no concept of money works as a parallel to some sort of supreme being with infinite resources at their fingertips. However, as we did in Frankenstein we learn that there are vast differences between the different types of creation, and the relationships that arise between the different types of creator-maker binaries. Is it possible to love something that has been constructed? Or to be truly loved by something you’ve created naturally?
When you reach the last page of Eve & Adam, it’s hard not to flick back to the first page and re-read Eve’s thoughts on dying:
“When you die…you should be thinking about love…you should not be thinking about an apple.”
With thanks to Hardie Grant Australia for the review copy
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