Author: Jerry Kaczmarowski
2015 – Fiction – Science Fiction/Thriller
Source: Book Publicity Services
The Premise: Autism research is Dr. Jane Dixon’s life. Her son Robbie is autistic and Jane desperately wants to find a cure so that he can live a normal life. Her line of work finds her testing animals, injecting them with a substance that she hopes will increase their intelligence. When a rat named Einstein and a dog named Bear react positively to the substance, she believes she’s found the answer. But after a surprise takeover by the Department of Defense and a threat of shutdown by the Center for Disease Control, her desperation leads her to give Robbie the injection prematurely. With the threat of an epidemic looming, Jane finds her life spinning rapidly out of control.
The Opening Line: A young research assistant poked his head through the laboratory door and said, “We’re heading out to grab some beers. Want to join us?”
Thoughts: I’ve read many a book in which there is an end of the world scenario. Zombies are shambling around, aliens have invaded, a meteorite has struck. Or an epidemic has led to the apocalypse. There aren’t many books that feature the lead-up to that event, though. Which is why I found Sapient so intriguing. Although no apocalypse happens by the end of the book, this story of a woman’s race to find a cure for autism for her son could feasibly serve as the sowing ground for that type of event.
What I loved the most about Sapient was watching Robbie’s progression to health. Before the injection, he was withdrawn, fastidious, emotionally blank, and unable to connect with others. After the injection, he slowly gains an awareness of other people and is able to handle complex transactions and initiate complex events. For all intents and purposes, he is fully cured and is able to act and react like a non-Autistic child. In a sense, he may even be more intelligent than most children, and is certainly forced to think on his feet as he tries to protect the animals, outrace the authorities, and meet up with his mother. From one extreme to the other, Robbie’s is a fascinating journey that I’m sure all those with an interest in finding a cure will enjoy.
My other favorite thing was the animals themselves. Einstein has been trained by Jane to count, solve maze simulations, and complete other typical lab tests. He can also type, understand and use language, and teach Bear how to do certain things. He displays a startling level of intelligence rarely seen in humans. While Bear isn’t quite as smart (or snarky!), he is loyal and determined to do whatever is needed to save Robbie and keep the family together. The two make quite a pair and are ostensibly the main characters.
Sapient both fascinates and frightens me. I think we all realize that animals are intelligent. But the idea that animals could compete in intelligence on a human scale is terrifying. It’s like the old fear that robots could become intelligent and take over the world. But on the other hand, if animals could communicate with humans, what might we learn? And how might things change? As technology grows, we could gain some answers in the future. The question is, do we really want to know?