Sunday, August 14, 2016

Resurrecting Sunshine by Lisa A Koosis


Rating: WARTY!

Note: this is an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Resurrecting Sunshine was a real disappointment for me. I felt like it was a bait-and-switch story and I got the lesser half of the deal. The titular character, Sunshine, aka Marybeth, is being cloned, and she had a major story to tell, yet we never get to meet her at all. All we get is Adam's perspective, in first person, which can be tedious, and Marybeth never got to tell her story. In fact, she got shorted badly and I resented that.

The story is set about a decade into the future and is all about the adolescent yet juvenile Adam, an emancipated and emaciated spoiled-rotten seventeen-year-old, self-pitying drunk, who is one of the most tediously self-obsessed, self-centered, and monotonously whining characters I've ever had to put up with in a novel. The first person PoV, which is nearly always worst person PoV, did not help at all. He was nauseating. After about sixty percent of the novel, I began skimming because I could not stand to listen to him and I resented the endless, uninformative flashbacks. I found myself wishing that Adam had died and Marybeth was telling the story. As a resurrected clone, it would have made for far more interesting reading.

More than one person has rudely tried to impose upon me the assertion that you cannot review a novel if you haven't read it all, but those people are not only crass, they are delusional. I read sixty percent of this one and skimmed the rest, and it not only did it never improve, it never went anywhere I didn't expect it to go. I rest my case.

It was utterly predictable in pretty much every major facet, so there were no surprises at all. Except one: I was surprised that I never got to meet Marybeth, but having met Adam, I was left in no doubt as to why she killed herself. He was insufferable. And yes, it's no spoiler to reveal that fact, because like several other things in the novel, such as how Adam and Genevieve would end up as an item, and what her story was, it was so predictable, and it was quite obvious that "Sunshine" had rain in her life despite the author's inexplicable, yet extreme reticence in revealing that obvious information.

Adam was the guitarist in a four-person band of which Sunshine was the star. All of the others are dead, and so it's Adam who's approached by a rather secretive organization that's intent upon cloning loved ones. He's told they can bring Marybeth back, and they need him because her memory record, which they had taken when she was in the hospital, is corrupted in part. He knew her better than anyone, and he can help fix the omissions.

This was one of several issues for me in a novel that was far more fiction than science. Yes, we could technically clone a human. Whether it's ethical or advisable is another issue, but this cloning was glossed over so thickly that it stunk of varnish. How did they get her cells? How did they record her memories?

Growing an embryo into a seventeen year old girl in a few weeks or months? It's too much. Recording memories? I found it hard to believe they'd been able to get access to someone like Sunshine and record her memories as she lay dying or dead without anyone finding it strange or questioning what they were doing. There are ways to explain this, but it never was explained - it was simply a given. And never were the ethics of this shady business seriously questioned. The second instance of this memory mapping is even harder to explain, and so it goes unexplained, but I can't go into that without giving away a rather large spoiler, even though it became obvious what was going on well before the author revealed it.

I really like a good cloning story and this one started out quite well, and at least the story took off quickly, which is always a plus. Problems arose for Adam as soon as he arrived on the Island of Doctor Morose. He's missing booze of course, the islanders seem to think there are ghosts at the clinic, despite all the secrecy - or perhaps because of it - and even as he pines for Sunshine, he's forming a relationship with another young girl there, whose name is Genevieve. This was another sad case of instadore in YA "literature" and it was one more sorry aspect to this story. Adam isn't fit to be in a relationship with anyone and Genevieve is a moron if she thinks she's in love with this dick after a few troubled weeks.

As for Sunshine, despite being the titular character, she's conspicuous by her absence. She's been cloned, Adam is told, but not yet fully matured. In the story, the clones undergo an artificial maturation process (which the author amusingly calls 'aging', like the clones are wine or cheese!), so he isn't allowed to meet her until they've finished calibrating his mind and retrieving his memories. The idea is that Adam will recall memories of Sunshine and these will themselves be cloned and used to fill the gaps in the clone's mind - suitably altered to make them look like her own memories rather than his. How that will work goes unexplained. The author hasn't specified why this is necessary - why they couldn't, for example, simply tell her she's lost some memories.

This was one of the major problems because the author seems to have a poor understanding of how memories are made and stored. Or is it that she has a great grasp of it, but chooses to ignore it for the purpose of this fiction? I don't know. I can't remember accurately! LOL! Seriously though, there's this fiction in fiction that the mind is like a computer hard drive constantly recording everything, and that whatever is stored there can be recalled exactly as it was when first stored - it never changes. This is completely wrong. Human memory is much more like stew than it is like a hard drive, with memories constantly mixing with and flavoring others.

Memories are modified every time they're recalled, and what's stored in the first place isn't an accurate record of what you experienced. Most things your senses encounter are filtered out, and only what your mind considers crucial to your survival is stored. Even our definition of survival is different these days from what it was when we lived on the Savannah in Africa. This laxity in our memorizing is why eye witnesses are the worst kind of evidence in a court case, and our poor understanding of memory is why jurors so idiotically put so much stock in what an eye witness says. It's not possible to pull up your entire past because it simply isn't there to be pulled up, and what is there isn't authentic, so it actually wouldn't matter if the clone is deemed to have false memories! Our own "real" memories are false to a disturbing degree!

One question I kept asking is "Why make her a clone?" She could have been be a ghost or a twin sister and this story would have been largely the same, especially since she never got to actually tell her story. All we ever got was Adam endlessly going back into his recollections and "interacting" with Marybeth in holodeck simulations right out of Star Trek. I felt cheated.

At first this wasn't bad and it was actually integral to the story, but when it went on and endlessly on and on and on, it turned me right off the story. It became boring, tedious and unengaging. Even if Adam had been a guy worth reading about, and he wasn't, it would have been mind-numbing with the monotonous flashbacks. The truth is that Adam was a complete dick, and I loathed him. At one point he even alienates Genevieve who has been inexplicably patient with him. He pisses her off so much that she refuses to hang with him or speak to him, and I can't blame her at all. She's a smart woman! Or she was until she has a brain fart and returns to him.

In the end I felt mugged of the story I'd been promised - or at least the story I felt I'd been promised from the blurb and the title, and what I got instead wasn't nearly as entertaining as what I'd expected. I wish the author all the best in her career, but I cannot in good faith recommend this one.


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