Orphan of Creation Paperback – Feb 1988
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About the Author
Roger MacBride Allen was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on September 26, 1957. He graduated Boston University in 1979 with a degree in journalism, and published his first novel in 1984. He has written over twenty novels to date, (three of which were New York Times bestsellers), two extremely obscure technical manuals, and a modest number of short stories. He is also the co-author (with his father, Thomas B. Allen) of Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War, published by the National Geographic Society. In 1994, he married Eleanore Fox, an officer in the U. S. Foreign Service. In March 1995, they moved to Brasilia, Brazil, where Eleanore worked at the embassy. In August, 1997, Eleanore’s next assignment took them back to the United States. Their son, Matthew Thomas Allen, was born in 1998. A posting to Leipzig, Germany, made that the birthplace of their second son, James Maury Allen in 2004. Another posting to Washington followed, and then a two-year assignment in Mexico City, Mexico from 2010 to 2012, before coming home once again. Unless or until another posting takes them out of the country again, they live in Takoma Park, Maryland, just north of Washington, D. C. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The basic story line takes you from Africa to the Smithsonian Institue in Washington, DC, then to a startling discovery in the Southern States (remains of prehistoric man are found that only date back to the 1800's). The main character is a black woman, who's point of view is so convincing, I initially thought Allen was a pseudonym for a woman. She's not only dealing with an anthropological mystery, but also with everyday life and marital problems.
The anthropology and basic science presented in the story helps move the plot along, rather than interfering. In fact, by the end of the book, I found myself believing the events depicted really could happen!
I really enjoyed it, makes you think a lot. I liked the twists and characters, although the ending did seem a bit... rushed. The first half is so slow and methodical, then the last half just churns by, skipping months at a time, and not nearly as much focus on the initial characters... but I still really enjoyed it, and like I said, it kept me up til 2am!
Without giving too much away, the story shifts into high gear as the 'team' then seeks to find the source of such 'recent' Australopithicines, and (of course) they find the living descendants in darkest Africa. At this stage, there is a shift in emphasis by the author to themes which consider the religious implications of creation - what is human what is not - and at what point can such animals/beings/early humans be considered to be worthy of 'humane' treatment in the real sense of the word. As it turns out, DNA tests place the discovered species on the 'human side of the tracks', and the fire is well and truly lit when some 'modern era' interbreeding with 'humans' is proven to have occurred. There are many twists and turns, in a short book. Perhaps the book ends too suddenly - although the enormity of the problem for our human race, when we suddenly have living cousins we didn't know about, is probably better left for several other volumes. Guess who's coming to dinner, all over again ... LOL
Roger MacBride Allen has written an enjoyable book - generally on target scientifically, and with some good subplots. The entire concept raises some interesting questions about our ethical stance as the only 'human' race, and asks 'what is a human'.
When you read the book, and although you know with a fair degree of certainty that Australopithicines do not still inhabit the earth (OK, maybe one or two with big feet), it still will make you think a little more deeply the next time you look into the wise brown eyes of a chimpanzee who will spend 20 years or more locked in a small cage.
Worth a read.
The story starts when a paleontologist, who is an American of colour, is staying with her family, who have done well enough that they now own the plantation where their ancestors were once slaves. She finds some records indicating that the original owner had imported as slave labour a group of creatures who her ancestor described as apes. Intrigued she organises an archaological dig to try to find out what kind of ape could have been used in this way. She was not expecting what she finds ...
An example of one of the thought provoking ideas in the book - a journalist asks a distinguished scientist what question he would ask an Australopithicus, and he replies that he would ask "What is a person?" Later in the story he actually does get to meet a hominid closely related to Australopithecus, and on a whim he does ask her this question.
On the last page of the book we get her answer and, although of limited use as a wider definition, it would be completely convincing. If you want to know what it is, you'll have to read the book.