Title: Requiem of the Human Soul
Author: Jeremy R. Lent
Publisher: Libros Libertad
Web Page: www.libroslibertad.ca/
Reviewed by: Eric Jones
There is no medium that captures the human soul better than music. That’s right; music. That’s why I’m always dubious about books that come across my desk with the word “soul” in the title, already it seems that the author has taken on too much. So I was surprised to find that Jeremy R. Lent’s “Requiem of the Human Soul” was not about the human soul at all, but about race. A Phillip K. Dick-esque run through a post-modern world where humans are seen as inferior to a new super-race, and next in line for a final solution.
It’s clear from the get-go that Lent knows his craft. His future world of the genetically enhanced d-humans is stunningly rendered with thought given to nearly every facet of their technologically enhanced culture to make them seem as real as any corporation that might exist today. Eusebio Franklin, a school teacher living in what’s known as a “humanist community”, is unacquainted with these stark societal advances, and makes the perfect vessel through which our own unacquainted eyes to inhabit and gaze in wonder. Still, Lent lends little time to gazing, since there is some serious business at hand. Franklin has been chosen to represent the last of the natural humans in a debate on whether they should be weeded out of d-human society by selective sterilization which would render them unable to breed. A humane genocide, if you will.
Eusebio is forced to undertake a series of excruciating virtual reality tours which force him to experience some of the atrocities of humanity’s past. Then answer questions hurled at him by a sly lawyer named Henry Shields, who proves to be an antagonist just as worthy as Dr. Zeus to Charlton Heston’s role of Taylor in “Planet of the Apes”. At first Shields seems indomitable, and with a strength of conviction that makes even Eusebio unsure of humanity’s right to prevail. In Shields, the book’s underlying themes of racism are fleshed out.
Lent’s masterful structuring effectively puts humanity in the position of any race that’s ever been discriminated against for being different, and forces the reader, through Eusebio, to bear witness to our own checkered history as justification for its current predicament. The Nazi’s “Final Solution” is referred to in direct reference to the d-human’s PEPS proposal which will sterilize the remaining un-augmented humans. Eusebio is forced to live out a virtual reality experience as a Native American during the massacre at Sand Creek, Colorado in 1864. Given such suffocating prejudice, it becomes no surprise later when Eusebio makes the uncharacteristic turn to terrorism in defense of his people, unable to gain any ground diplomatically with Sheilds.
The question of whether or not humanity has a soul becomes the unwitting bottom line in these sessions although, in my opinion, it is the book’s weakest point. Although the chapters are punctuated to great effect by lyrics from songs like Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and John Lennon’s “Mind Games” and speaks to musicians’ faithful capturing of the human soul, the story can’t quite compete. Eusebio’s case comes down to proving that humans without genetic augmentation, or “Primals”, are the only ones with actual souls. Not souls in a metaphoric or religious context, since the book doesn’t seem to inhabit such circles, but a scientifically viable soul. His quest to find such proof seems to bypass the central theme of racism and places d-humans in the position of soulless aliens rather than a dominating race. And since the soul, I would say, doesn’t exist scientifically it would seem that the connection between Lent’s world and our own is broken here. Not to mention that there is a much better argument for Eusebio to make in counter to Shield’s constant condemnation of Primals that he misses completely by chasing down the soul.
The human-d are a young race. Their creation and rise to power are cleverly documented in sub-chapters that take the form of various news and texts on genetic enhancement and the winds of social change that underscore the novel’s themes of science and race. But while Eusebio is attacked for his people’s history of genocide he neglects to mention that the human-d are on the road to creating just such a history themselves with their PEPS initiative. (I will admit that Eusebio’s council, Naomi, mentions it in passing, but only to change the subject of Shield’s questioning. Not as a defense.) The central line of Lent’s novel comes from Shield’s after the Native American massacre. He says, “Which soul is it, exactly, that the PEPS proposal would be eliminating? The soul of those brave white men who destroyed the American Indians, mutilating their corpses? Or the soul of the indigenous people?” Rather than answer, Eusebio listens to his council and Shields debate over the question. This is the question that never really gets answered in “Requiem of the Human Soul”, rather it devolves into one of whether or not the soul actually exists, and if so, does it exist in the human-d as well? Those answers, and their meaning, I’ll leave for you to discover in the amazing future world of “Requiem”.
Please forgive my venture into thematic analysis. It is a testament to the lofty aspirations of “Requiem” and the amazing heights to which is soars in reaching for them. Ambitious in nature and meticulous in design, “Requiem of the Human Soul” is one of the greatest independently published science fiction novels of our time. Rather than creating a fun diagram of future events that speculate on processes to come, Lent does what any good writer of sci-fi should do. He speaks to our current culture through the use of a future where self is not assured, where terrorism is called policy, and peace is only a silent war against humanity. With the canons turned against us, what hope is left but for the triumph of the human soul?
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