Ghost Species: A Review

by Laura Himmelmann

Considering the climate crisis that we have been facing for years now, and the slow but unstoppable changes that occur in our daily lives, James Bradley created a piece of written art which touches upon issues we usually think of as unimaginable and far off.

The title Ghost Species does allow interpretation when it comes to the plot itself, one does not first think about creations of nature that have long been extinct, a surprise that arrives when one reads the first few pages of the novel. The story takes place at the height of the climate crisis, with a low probability for humans to direct the way of nature in a more positive direction. It is a touching topic, one that makes the reader feel involved and emotionally attached.

We are first introduced to Kate Larkin, a geneticist, smart but with her own flaws marking her behavior, who is hired by Davis Hucken, an entrepreneur who has a striking resemblance, behavior-wise, to Elon Musk or even Jeff Bezos. Unlike a lot of other novels, in which we have to wait for the big reveal until the last few pages, Bradley quite literally urges the issues of the story onto us within their first meeting. A resurrection of species that have long been extinct, unreachable. While we may think immediately of stories like Jurassic Park, where we witness the rebirth of dinosaurs, we learn about Davis’s idea of breathing life into dying plants and long-lost animals such as mammoths, but it does not stop there. It goes as far as wanting to bring back human beings, to be exact Neanderthals.

Now it may seem unbelievable at first read, but the truth of this world we are living in reflects the insatiable need to be better, ‘crazier’ and to make the unspeakable true. Bradley picks up on issues that do not seem far off, nor unrealistic, always considering the moral and ethical questions we face every day. Throughout the experiment, Eve is born, Kate, however, fears that the child will never be able to have a normal life because she is different, she is something that seemed impossible, so life within glass walls, like a laboratory rat, does seem realistic. The novel also details the relationship between mother and daughter, even if it is not blood-related. Kate and Eve are depicted as bound together by love and care, which is supported by the background knowledge of Kate being unsuccessful in conceiving a child of her own.

Throughout the story, we learn just how rotten the bigger part of humanity really is, since they want to exploit Eve for science. However, they learn that she has much more to learn than she would be able to teach them. It is quite sad to witness her life be turned around several times, but it also happens to be a mirror image of our society and how we always tend to want the impossible: Once that is achieved, we see what it brings and it is not as easy as we might have hoped.

Bradley does a fantastic job at teaching the reader how important it actually is to care about the issues that surround us and to not blindly let them pass by. The story serves as a wake-up call for those who decided to sleep on our world evolving into something we cannot rewind. It plays with our consciouses and moral compasses, making us realize that change needs to be done now or it might be too late, too soon.