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Lovelock    by Orson Scott Card & Kathryn H. Kidd order for
by Orson Scott Card
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2001 (1995)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Capuchin monkey Lovelock is a Witness, genetically enhanced to record everything that happens in his owner's life and conditioned to worship her. He witnesses for the brilliant gaiologist (designer for a new planet) Carol Jeanne Cocciolone and lives with her, her therapist husband Red, two spoilt daughters and her in-laws. They all accompany Carol Jeanne onto the Ark, a colony ship.

Lovelock slowly starts to overcome his conditioning and to understand that, despite his owner's occasional kindness, he is in fact a slave, who can be controlled by a 'painword' and that these controls are automatically invoked to repress a monkey's normal desires for masturbation and reproduction. He hacks into the colony ship's computer system and makes his own plans to continue his new sentient species.

This is the overall plot but what makes the story highly entertaining is Lovelock's running caustic commentary on the foibles of the humans around him. They are organized into villages on the ship and Carol Jeanne's assigned village of Mayflower is rife with gossip, jealousy, troubled marriages, child abuse and all the usual nastiness that humanity carries with it as baggage.

There are some especially funny moments like the time the mother-in-law exposes Lovelock to free fall ... 'All my sphincter muscles released at once, demonstrating the fact that the term going apeshithas a literal meaning.' And there is a very sad one when Lovelock does the unthinkable ... 'I have killed an animal that loved and trusted me, to suit my own convenience. Now, I am a human.'

For Lovelock, despite its humour, is a telling indictment of human treatment of animals and of our assumptions about the unimportance of their needs and feelings. But it doesn't paint all of us as callous and indifferent - there are a few adults and two children on the Ark, Peter and Diana, who sympathize and seem slated to become Lovelock's helpers in future episodes.

Aside from the novel itself, Card has written a very interesting foreword on the collaboration process and on the recent trend in science fiction to package a big name presence along with an unknown author, with a result that often is less than the reader was led to expect. He assures us that Lovelock was an equal effort between the co-authors and indeed that is obvious from the quality of the writing.

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