Book Review: Eva by Peter Dickinson
Eva wakes up from a car accident to discover that her scientist, chimp researcher parents have allowed for her to be part of a new experiment. Her brain patterns have been implanted into a chimp’s brain. She is a human brain trapped in a chimp’s body. What will this mean for Eva? For the chimps? For the world?
This a truly horrifying concept. What would it be like to wake up from a car accident in a body that is not your own? There is much potential for exploration here, but the direction Dickinson took it in fell flat for me.
The setting is a near future in which the world is vastly overpopulated and nearly all animal species have died out except for chimps, who are all kept in captivity. It’s odd in a world that is so overpopulated that the vast majority of people never leave their apartments that scientists have made such an ethically questionable move to save human lives. As Eva herself points out, not only is there the problem of what it means to be a human in a chimp’s body, but also there’s the fact that the chimp essentially had to die for Eva to live. How is that right or fair?
I appreciate that Dickinson has Eva start to identify with the animals and fight for animal rights, yet I simultaneously did not appreciate his depiction of the inner workings of animals and their social groups. In spite of Eva being one of and among them, Dickinson persists in presenting them from a largely disconnected human perspective. I’ve read more sympathetic passages on the inner workings of animal groups on vegetarian websites than I got from Eva’s perspective as, essentially, one of the chimps herself.
*spoiler warning* Some readers will also be disturbed by the fact that Eva goes on to mate with one of the chimps. Although this is not shown, it is shown that a male is interested in Eva when she is in estrus, and it is later shown that she has had multiple chimp babies. Although I am highly sympathetic to animal rights, this is far too close to beastiality for my own comfort. Perhaps if Dickinson had addressed the issue and made it a thought-provoking issue instead of glossing over it I would feel differently. But he truly just makes it happen and tries to skip over the issue. I found this disturbing and was disappointed that this overshadowed the more interesting questions of animal rights versus human welfare. *end spoiler*
Overall, the book is well-written and thought-provoking, but falls far short of what it could have been. I’m sure there must be better YA books out there that address the issue of animal rights in a clearer, less disturbing manner.
2 out of 5 stars