Book Review: The Curiosity, by Stephen Kiernan

I picked this book up for its cover quote fromcv_the_curiosity Justin Cronin (The Passage), and I’m pleased I did. It has been awhile since I read a book that engulfed me as much as The Curiosity did. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it, trying to guess at the main character’s next moves.

The Curiosity is told from several points of view. Dr Kate Philo is the lead scientist on an Arctic expedition. This expedition is bankrolled by the arrogant genius scientist Erastus Carthage, and the aim is to find ‘Hard Ice’, a type of ice that has previously yielded animal specimens that have proven to be able to be reanimated. Also on the ship is hack science and nature journalist Daniel Dixon.

Dr Philo and her team find a man frozen in the ice. They successfully extricate him, and the Lazarus Project is born. While the morality is questioned from day one, Carthage overrides everybody to ensure that reanimation takes place, and we are introduced gradually to Judge Jeremiah Rice, who died while on an Arctic exploration over 100 years before.

This book is a love story, but without the purple prose. It is a story of wonder, a story of intrigue, and a story of morality. Can they really bring somebody back from the dead for no reason other than to see if it can be done – and what responsibility do they then have to keep him alive? What is the best way to utilise the science, and at what point can they say ‘Subject One’ will stay alive, and thus open the floodgates for the cryogenics industry to walk through?

Author Stephen Kiernan deals well with keeping his story anchored without going overboard in any direction.  Love, science and story are all well-balanced, for the most part. There were a few points that I thought should have been explored more thoroughly, particularly finding the judge’s living descendants – he became an instant celebrity, and the press hounded him without uncovering anything new. While we are acquainted with a possible family member, this is never explored.

I think this book is going to strike a chord with a lot of readers. It is an ably-written story with enough conspiracy theory in it to make the reader want to stay ahead of the play, while having a gently-handled love story underpinning it, and a fascinating unreliable narrator in the person of the vilified genius Carthage. I think it has several of the elements that drew people to The Da Vinci Code, but the writing is stronger.

I look forward to reading more fiction from Stephen Kiernan.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster (Booksellers NZ)

The Curiosity
by Stephen Kiernan
Published by John Murray (Hachette)
ISBN 9781848548763

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