Evolution's Shore

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evolutions.gif

Ian MacDonald

GENRES:
Sci-Fi, Alien

SUMMARY:
Based on MacDonald's earlier short story "Towards Kilimanjaro," Evolution's Shore tells of a mysterious and sudden meteor crash near Mt. Kilimanjaro. Journalist Gaby MacAslean finds herself at the center of a rapidly spreading mystery when she leaves her native Ireland to cover the story.

Alarming in and of itself, the meteor crash coincides with the abrupt disappearance of Saturn's moon Hyperion. However, more unnerving is the gradual expansion of the Chaga, an alien ecosystem that originated at the point of impact and has since been growing. Although it has shown no obvious threat, many countries view the Chaga as a disease that must be stopped. Contrary to these views, Gaby and her colleagues travel to the Chaga to better understand its purpose. Is it a machine? An alien? A civilization? Or an alien biological weapon?

While she at first tries to unravel the mysteries of the Chaga from the outside, it is not until Gaby actually ventures inside it that she begins to fathom the miraculous possibilities of the alien presence.

RESPONSE:
Ok, I'm the first to admit that sci-fi based on aliens is often disappointing, cheesy, and cliche. One of the biggest problems I have with it is the anthropocentric view most authors take towards alien life. Unless you're a scientologist, it's really quite silly to think that alien life will look or act anything like us. MacDonald apparently agrees with this and explores a truly alien form of life in this book.

I really can't explain what the Chaga is. Even by the end of the novel, I wasn't quite sure what it was myself. It seemed to be a complete ecosystem, but the origination and control source was mysterious. In order to at least partly understand you have to read the book. It's a completely unique and valid approach to alien existence.

Like the title suggests, this novel also brought up interesting evolutionary issues. MacDonald points out that if our pre-hominid ancestors were given the choice to advance and improve their species, they would not have chosen opposable thumbs and larger brains. They would have chosen faster speed, longer endurance, stronger bodies. Similarly, if given the choice, humans now might chose larger brains. Evolution, however, might have something completely different and unimaginable in store for us. This novel explores that issue eloquently through the genuine curiosity and amazement of its characters, especially the irrepressible and intelligent Gaby.

The mutations that MacDonald describes of the humans who have become part of the Chaga are creative and disturbing in their foreignness and seemingly practical purpose on alien worlds. MacDonald wisely brings up issues and questions while refusing to give set answers for a topic that has none.

POINT BLANK:
Not to be missed. An important, unique, and interesting novel about our own importance and purpose. MacDonald tackles difficult themes with eloquence and good old-fashioned storytelling.