Saturday, August 02, 2008

Emergence - David R. Palmer

This post-apocalyptic tale was published in 1985. Sadly, it is now out of print and both hard and expensive to find. However, Palmer has a "sequel" currently being published over three issues of Analog magazine. Having loved the book when I read it at the behest of a friend a number of years ago (thank you Alison!), as soon as I heard this I rushed off to Fictionwise and bought the first Analog issue. Before starting reading (something I still haven't done as I'm tossing up between reading part 1 soon or waiting to have all three parts before beginning) I decided to reread Emergence.

I'm so glad I did as I loved it all over again. All the same, it's a slightly odd book and any reader should go into it ready for something a little different. Emergence is written as a journal kept by 11 year old Candy Foster-Smith. As it begins, the reader slowly discovers that she has begun writing while in a bomb shelter, waiting for the immediate effects of a bio-plague to pass so she can go outside again. She is highly intelligent and later discovers she is one of a new species of human being - tougher and smarter than old homo sapiens, who have apparently all been wiped out anyway.

She is trying to be as efficient in her writing as possible, supposedly using Pitman shorthand and a terse, almost choppy style that leaves out any extraneous and unnecessary words. It takes a few pages to get used to, but it generally easy to read all the same.

Candy eventually emerges from the shelter, finds everyone in her small town has died and goes looking for other post-human survivors. She continues to write everything down for History (with a capital H), in a chatty, informal style that quickly makes the reader feel like she is a familiar friend.

Palmer has clearly put a lot of thought into the "what ifs" required for his story. He's considered the implications of his apocalypse and the situations and conditions Candy faces generally feel realistic and plausible (although the power did seem to stay on a lot longer than I would have expected without anyone to run the power stations). Candy's solutions to her dilemmas are well worked out to be consistent with a highly developed mind but the body and physical resources of an 11 year-old. She's a precocious 11 though (especially with regard to the eventual need to repopulate the planet) and I often found myself thinking of her as being 13 and finding myself surprised when her real age was mentioned.

As I said, I loved reading this book all over again and I highly recommend it to anyone. I'm sorry it is so hard to find, as that means lots of people are missing out on an excellent read. Do check your library catalogue in case they have a copy. And/or try to next story in Analog.

David R. Palmer

No comments: