Review of Eden’s Serum
Eden’s Serum by Angelique S. Anderson is a speculative fiction novel set in the near future. This work borders on fantasy due to some pseudo-tech that is more like magic than science. Especially in the time frame presented.
This is a fast read and I blasted through the book in two sittings. The story opens with protagonist Adam racing to his place of employment due to a bomb threat and the potential loss of his research. The police resolve things without casualties or destruction, and the perpetrator ends up being his boss. His work and career are safe. Fast forward two years and Adam is approaching a hospital where he is preparing for a radical leonization treatment. I am okay with this abrupt right turn, but others may want a little more world building and transition into this aspect of the story. We are expositively shown the big-brother identi-coin technology that has secured Adam’s future. Integrated bio-dentify is something we already are capable of now with RFID and even more sophisticated technologies. The issue hasn’t been the tech, but societal integration. Author Anderson brushes across some of the privacy issues and drawbacks. I can’t decide whether it’s ironic or unbelievable that Adam, one of the principle contributors to the tech in the story, doesn’t anticipate the privacy issues that piss him off. At any rate, in my mind 2020 is waaay too soon for socio-identity integration. Practical leonization and nanotechnologies are also possible but significantly further off than four years. The science hurdles are the least of any life-extension technology’s acceptance difficulties (more on these two issues in my setting notes).
Adam’s misgivings about the treatment don’t work for me in this. The disclaimers about the possible side-effects, the expense, piled on top of possible fraud should raise more alarm bells than they do. This is a story though and he didn’t anticipate invasive identity-authentication affecting his life either.
In a span of a chapter, the story becomes a conspiracy plot it is this change and the voice of the narrative thereafter that leads me to identify this as speculative rather than science fiction. The two technologies and their ramifications simply aren’t explored enough.
Categorization aside there’s a decent mystery to be solved and the hero and his assistant Evelyn are appropriately hounded and challenged. I thought that story was very light on flunkies… I was a little bit baffled by the idea of company execs doing their own dirty work.
Things eventually come to a head. The resolution is a little bit pat, but this novel is a bit on the fluffy side anyway.
Execution : 3.95 — This reads well and confines itself largely to Adam’s viewpoint with a couple lapses where it drops to Evelyn (and once to Dr. Pearson). The diction is slightly off in as much as Adam is supposedly a tech guy, but just doesn’t seem to talk or act much like one at times. Overall, the diction changes in patches, sometimes tight, other times kitschy. Physical registers and sensory are present in this, and do a better than average job of bringing some of the setting details off the page. I wanted a little more nuanced usage to elevate other moments of the story however. NOTE: I am in official loathe mode with the word ‘smirk’. I’ve seen the word in the last four books I’ve read. Authors, don’t have your heroes ‘smirk’. Ugh. Nobody likes a smarmy smirker! It’s a smug arrogant air of superiority best attributed to antagonists and characters we are not meant to like. Heroes don’t smirk. /rant.
Setting : 3.85 – 4.1 — There are good setting details in this. The science is a little expositiony but not overly bad. It is quite light on authentic sounding detail and could benefit from the lingo. My main quibble is just the time frame. Universal identification, check. Implemented in four years, there’d need to be some huge catastrophe… mass terrorism or something that scared people into giving up their privacy. The technophobes of the U.S. would not go softly into compliance. The are leonization (longevity) trails currently underway. So, it is possible, once all the religious screaming and caterwauling, government regulation, and who knows what else was finally overcome (something that realistically would take decades). What isn’t explained is how the non-working product ever got to public consumption. There’s mention of celebrities and such being treated how did it go undetected? There is the side effect which I won’t ruin for readers. I wonder if author Anderson considered that “product” more viable for say– soldiers.
Character : 3.3-3.8 — Let me get one bit out of the way (Eden + Adam / Eve) is just a little too on the nose for me. Other folks may not notice or care, but I am picky. That being said, as I wrote earlier, Adam’s portrayal is slightly problematic. I think some of that is that what he actually does for a living is left a bit ambiguous. There is mention of research but his inner thoughts just don’t sound like an engineer. What would sell the identicoin technology would be some kind of underlying security. The big fear now of uni-ids is that consumer identities would have to be stored in the cloud. Then the problem becomes what happens if the data is compromised, or there’s loss of connectivity, sunspots or whatever. So, the breakthrough would be in some kind of up-time and reliability… that and the tech being cheap enough to be ubiquitous. Anyways, never mind the ramblings of a computer scientist…
Evelyn, on the other hand, I like as a character. We learn a fair amount about her, although her relationship and the seven years prior to showing up in Adam’s office is a bit sketchy. Had she given up on her mission? That wasn’t clear.
In the cases of both Adam and Evelyn there was a tendency to tell rather than show. Other times the inner narrative was fine.
I thought more should have been done with the HR lady Ms. Ellie. I feel author Anderson missed an opportunity not to humanize her more and make the reader like her. This would have made a more dramatic impact on the protagonist in the latter stages of the story. I think more mileage could have been gotten out of Doctor Plath as well.
Overall : 4.0 — This is quick easy read without overt gore, cussing, or violence. It takes a shallow swipe at privacy and the inequities of society, and makes some veiled comments on people not knowing what’s really important in life. All positive things. There are some rough spots as noted, but in all it’s a worthy read. I look forward to author Anderson’s next creative endeavor.