Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Orange Eyed and Scary: Susan Gates, Dusk (London: Puffin, 2004).

Curtis is a lab technician looking after gen-enged rats. One day he is a) careless, and doesn't tighten the cage locks and b) decides to check out the weird noises from next door. They turn out to be made by a wild girl with the eyes of a hawk. He panics, starts a fire, frees the girl who runs off, and the rats (led by a General rat) escape.

Two years later his son arrives to stay, discovers the burned and fenced area, sneaks in after a stray dog (which gets killed by the wild dogs inside) and finds the girl, Dusk. Dusk helps him to escape and he in turn runs off with her into the wilderness. Although this story is in part about Jay's relationship with his parents (Ma is an over attentive Christian, Curtis is dad is a drunk) Jay runs away, he doesn't actually solve anything--there are hints though that if there is a sequel, familial reconciliation will be a theme.

It's an ok story, unpatronising and clear cut, but Gates solves the problem of "what science will children understand" by ensuring that the novel is not told from the point of view of scientists, or from their level of understanding, and instead from the position of ignorant outsiders--the public in other words. Politically it makes sense but it means that there is no technical detail: the results, not the process are what is discussed. This reminds me of the trend in UK school science to teach kids about science and technology, rather than teaching scientific knowledge. The protagonist/student can react politically and socially to the end results, but can't actually take part in shaping that result.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well hey, wow, how could she like possibly have justified leaving out the exact recipie for crossing human and hawk genes. It's positively criminal - our kids won't know how to conduct dangerous experiments on embryos. And they can't make their own Dusks - how terrible...

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