Philip K. Dick award nominee
Uh, where do I even start with this one?
Just to give you a sense of my experience with PJ Manney’s (R)evolution: about a quarter of the way into the book, I stopped, and wondered if I should continue reading it because I hated every single character in the book so much.
I only continued because some of the reviews I found were so rage-y, they were funny. I thought: ‘No way a book is really this much of a trainwreck. And if it is? I kind of want to experience that first hand.’
Yeah, no. That was a mistake.
When we first meet our main character, Peter Bernhardt, his startup bioengineering company is being shut down because a terrorist group, ATEAMO, used a weaponized version of his nano ’bot technology to slaughter a huge number of media conference attendees. The destruction is livestreamed. to the horror of the nation, and ends up with a numerical moniker, akin to 9/11. Peter’s only chance for avoiding jail as America’s scapegoat is to accept an offer from Carter, his gay (actually secretly bi, because what better way to signal his ‘two-faced-ness’?) best friend, to join an all-male secret society known as the Phoenix Club. Surprise! The secret society is evil and Carter, the bisexual duplicitous fiend that his is, is behind some of the worst of it. Now Peter needs to use his own biotech to super-evolve into a super man-machine hybrid and save the world from the evil clutches of the hedonistic, self-serving Phoenix Club.
Peter is clearly supposed to be likeable. He’s smart. He’s rich. He has a wife who really, really, REALLY desperately wants to make babies with him. He’s white–at least at the beginning. Later, when he’s on the run and has to change identity, he has “cafe au lait” skin, a gift from his also surgically altered girlfriend who literally makes him into a physically identical copy of her Hispanic father. (Squick alert!)
Speaking of squick, I’m going to spoil some specific events because they fall under the heading, ‘Reasons to Never Read This Book, EVER.’
Also? If you keep reading: trigger warning for sexual and physical assault.
So, you know how the girlfriend makes Peter into a physical copy of her dad? Well, that kind of kills the sexual tension that had been building between them, like you’d imagine it might. So, Peter decides that the best way to get the mojo back is to push Talia, the girlfriend, up against the fridge at knife point, and basically force her to have sex with him. And…. the author suggests that it works. Talia is super into it. She’s so into him after that, in general, that, later, when for no good reason he backhands her across the face, she forgives him. I guess because boys will be boys, especially boys who are super-evolving.
Talia is only one of the problematic women in this story.
Because then there’s Ruth. As the only scientific equal to Peter in the story, she’s, of course, described as ugly and socially broken. Ruth is not only a super-nerd, but also stereotypically Jewish, which we’re constantly reminded of by her speech patterns (‘what, you want for me to be offended?’) and near constant use of Yiddish proverbs and idioms.
And, I haven’t even tried to talk about Peter’s wife, Amanda, who starts out almost literally hysterical to have a baby with him. In fact, when I hit a point in the book when Peter is being particularly insensitive to Amanda about their miscarriage, I went to look up the author’s gender, assuming (wrongly!) that it would be a man. I couldn’t have been more shocked, myself. The only thing I might be more shocked about? The fact that this book is a Philip K. Dick nominee.