by Julia Rapacki
In Ghost Species, an aspect that caught my eye was how often characters, especially Kate and Eve, move homes during the narrative. Throughout the novel we read about several different locations and how they are perceived by the characters. A common theme among these locations is that they are often physically isolated from either the world, the mainland or other people. As I find this particularly interesting, I would like to take a closer look at what these spaces mean for the story and how they are presented.
Starting off, I would like to turn to Tasmania, the island state of Australia where most of the story takes place. Davis set up the Foundation in the middle of Tasmania because it is isolated and therefore allows for more secrecy regarding his projects and natural resistance in case of a global apocalypse. Later on in the novel, this assumption is proven to be correct as we learn about several countries falling into chaos because of natural disasters and collapsing governments while our main characters are mostly unaffected and seemingly have to take measures much later than the rest of the world. The mountainous terrain also allows everyone on Lukas’ farm to stay safe from the rising sea levels and isolated enough to not be bothered by other survivors for a while. It proves to be a hindrance though when Kate takes Eve from the Foundation, as it forces her to stay on the island. Even so, Tasmania turns out to be a saving grace from nature and allows the characters to be mostly unbothered by anything happening outside of it.
The first isolated building we find ourselves in is the Foundation. While the obvious benefits of keeping the experiments away from populated areas are to keep them secret and make it easier to hide from government regulation, it also encourages participating scientists to ignore ethical doubts.
“Later, Kate will wonder whether any of it would have happened if they had been somewhere less isolated, whether normality might have put a brake on their actions if they had been closer to other people. […], there is no doubt that up there, cut off from the rest of the world, it sometimes seemed that anything was possible and nothing was forbidden.” (Bradley, 11f.)
As they are separated from people outside of the Foundation the characters do not have a chance to question their choice to participate through outside input and additionally are partially dependent on the Foundation for lodging and income. It is easy to imagine how these circumstances allow for characters like Jay to ignore doubts they might have and become fully engrossed in their work, as Kate also points out at the beginning of the novel. However, as we follow Kate we see how the isolation and the added strain on her relationship with Jay increases her doubts about the experiment, leading to her taking Eve from the Foundation and going into hiding.
Once Kate has run away with Eve and found a house to stay in, we get to the next isolated location. The house Kate chose is deliberately far out from the city and does not have any mobile or internet connection. She comes to view this lack of connection to the outside world as freeing and relieving. It allows her to distance herself from the crises that are happening around the world, and she does not have to worry about being surveilled by electronic devices. Despite this partial relief, the situation still leaves Kate paranoid and anxious because of her constant fear of being discovered. Her concerns lead to her struggling to ask for help and form new connections. Only in a desperate enough moment, when Eve is sick and Kate can’t take her to the doctor, does she turn to Yassamin for help who becomes a positive support for them. Despite that, her fear proves to have been justified as after 3 years in hiding it is shockingly revealed that the Foundation has known about her whereabouts the whole time.
The last location I would like to focus on is Lukas’ farm where Eve and a few others live at the end of the novel after the climate crisis has reached its peak and the apocalypse has begun. In this situation, the farm’s isolation and Tasmania’s previously mentioned geographical advantages have become a saving grace for the characters residing there. It protects them from rising sea levels while also keeping them safe from discovery by other survivors. This allows them to build up their crops and livestock with fewer struggles than they might otherwise have and helps them survive the wildly unpredictable weather.
Furthermore, the group of people, while not always being completely harmonious, grows close out of necessity and can build up a small community within itself and with neighboring farms. Even Eve, while not feeling wholly included, begins to form bonds with the others and starts appreciating her tasks and contributions to the farm. This relative peace only gets disrupted once their isolation is broken with the arrival of Sami who reveals the farm’s location to people trying to form a new governing entity and taking the resources from individual communities.
Physical Isolation is oftentimes used in stories to induce a sense of helplessness, fear or loneliness. While it is sometimes perceived as negative by the characters in Ghost Species, physical Isolation is just as often shown to be a relief and freedom from obligations, surveillance or the awareness of the crises around the world. Additionally, in the cases of Eve and Kate’s home, Lukas’ farm and Tasmania in general, the isolated nature of these locations represent safety from the Foundation, regulations and nature. Characters isolating themselves from the disasters around the world and choosing not to engage with them is never portrayed as ignorant or as leading to one of their downfalls, as it might in other stories. Instead, it displays how reading about natural disasters on the internet or instigating a project to revive extinct species are all insignificant and cannot change the state of the world anymore. It emphasizes their helplessness when facing overwhelming natural forces.
Yet, despite all of this, it is only through taking a risk and leaving the isolation of Tasmania that Eve is finally able to achieve a sense of belonging by finding other Neanderthals like her. Just as when Kate had to leave the isolation of the house and ask Yassamin for help to make one of the few genuine connections she has. It is ultimately a sign of hope that Eve will live on and that she has overcome her isolation. In the end, humanity does persevere and can only survive in this new world through rebuilding communities and making connections.