Sunday, August 05, 2012

The Colony

I read about The Colony on a blog I read - The Rejectionist.  Actually, I didn't so much read about it as merely see that The Rejectionist had read it, so that was good enough for me.  I enjoy reading a book that I know basically nothing about.  I think my sister and I might be the only people in the entire universe who would rather die than read the back cover of a book.

Anyway (if you don't mind finding out a little bit about this book), The Colony, by Jillian Weise, takes place in the not-so-distant future (specifically 2015), and the main character, Anne Hatley, along with some other folks, have just moved to The Colony, a science campus where it seems like they'll probably be experimented on.  Anne has a "rare genetic mutation" and other new arrivals talk about how they have a "fat gene" or a "suicide gene".  One guy's bipolar.  Another has Alzheimer's.  Eventually (I'm not ruining it) and wonderfully slowly, it's revealed that the scientists are out to use these people's genes to cure them and others that have similar genetic afflictions.

But, what's really great about this book is Anne really challenges the idea that she needs "curing" or that she even has an "affliction."  (One of her legs never fully developed - she has a computerized leg and walks with that.) She is, after all, a perfectly capable person that's well educated, has a decent job, is attractive and relatively satisfied with her life (at least, as much as your average 25 year old).  She only begins to entertain the concept of allowing the scientists to fiddle with her genes when she fully realizes how narrowly other people view some disabilities with disgust and even hatred.
It wasn't true that love conquers all. Love doesn't. In the morning, one person has a condition and the other doesn't. No one should feel like a condition, as if their entire life, how people see them, revolves around a microscopic chromosome. It's not air. And don't give me the bullshit about finding someone who looks beyond that. What am I supposed to do? Be so happy, so appreciative when I find someone who looks beyond me? I don't want anyone to have to look beyond me. Where would they be looking?
A few years ago Weise wrote an article about getting her first "cyborg" leg.  Before I read this book and that article, I think it was less easy for me to understand why a person wouldn't want to have the more "normal" body.  So, I couldn't recommend this book more - not only is it beautifully written, but it's gotten a really interesting story and it made me challenge my own preconceptions and helped me change them.

By the way, there's an amazing Notes section at the end of the book that lists references for some of the scientific background and influences that is really eye-opening.  Oh, Weise is a poet, too.  Here's one of her pieces.

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