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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)


Official Author Website
Order Theory of Bastards over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Born a long time ago, in another country, Schulman has traveled enough to have vomited on four continents, including once onto a Masai tribesman’s feet.  He, unfortunately, was barefoot.

Her books aren't boring.  For a short time, one was even optioned for a movie with Wes Craven (the director of Nightmare on Elm Street).

She now lives near Boston with her family and runs an energy-efficiency nonprofit called HEET.

FORMAT/INFO: Theory of Bastards is 416 pages long divided over twenty-nine chapters. The book won 2019 Philip K. Dick Award for BEST Science Fiction and was a FINALIST of 2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction.

Theory of Bastards was published on April 24, 2018, by Europa Editions and is available in following formats: ebook, paperback, and audiobook. Cover art and design are provided by Emanuel Ragnisco.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Theory of Bastards is a weird book. But also a brilliant one. It focuses on Francine Burke, a superstar of the biological research, fascinated by whimsical mating habits of different species (finches, humans, primates). She accepts a position in a facility studying primates, including pansexual Bonobos. Frankie finds their promiscuous mating behavior fascinating from the evolutionary point of view. When everyone has sex with everyone how can females be sure if their offspring gets the best genes?

The narrative, divided between Frankie’s current research at the Foundation and glimpses from her past, focuses on the science behind our choices of sexual partners. Don’t worry, it never turns into a boring collection of data. Schulman weaves the research seamlessly into the narrative making the novel unputdownable.

Frankie is cold and distanced, focused on collecting data and proving her new theory that women cheat on men because titular bastards have evolutionary advantages. She tries to approach Bonobos as subjects, not as living and feeling creatures. Not an easy task when you work with such a colorful group of characters. As we get glimpses of Frankie's past, her struggles with the debilitating pain caused by endometriosis, and her strained and unhealthy relationships it gets easier to relate to her and understand her caustic demeanor. It's rare to see this particular ailment pictured in speculative fiction and even rarer to see it done so well.

Theory of Bastards starts and develops slowly until it reaches an unexpected post-apocalyptic turn. When the technology fails, Frankie, her assistant and a group of Bonobos will have to fight for survival. Following scenes show, rather realistically, struggles of people suddenly disconnected from technological advancements they had been using all their lives. I like small scale narratives and Schulman's choice to follow a small group of primates (two people and Bonobos) resulted in an intimate and engaging story about instincts, reason, and emotions appearing in the face of the unknown.

CONCLUSION: I loved Theory of Bastards. It's almost perfect. I'm not sure if it will appeal to fans of edge-of-your-seat-style narratives, but it should engage readers who enjoy a literary blend of academic research, evolutional psychology, and philosophy. It offers a brilliant mix of ecological and speculative fiction and proves that a skilled writer can turn the scientific study of human and bonobo sexual preferences into exciting fiction.






































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