A Supernatural Family Drama

by Joshua Gormanns

The novel Ghost Species by James Bradley on the surface seems like your stereotypical science fiction novel, dealing with the dangers of climate change and how humanity caused the problems and now tries its best to preserve the species. However, diving deeper into the novel, there are times the reader can easily forget those topics and the novel almost seems like a family drama with the slight change that the main character is not a homo sapiens, but a Neanderthal.

In the beginning, we get to know Jay and Kate, two scientists who are recruited by rich mogul Davis Hucken to work on a project for his Foundation. Their task is to revive the lost species of the Neanderthals. They succeed and when the first Neanderthal baby Eve is born, Kate soon forms a bond with her. One night Kate, who has ethical problems with keeping Eve like a lab rat, decides to take the baby and leave her old life behind to live a secluded life with Eve while hiding from the foundation.

After Kate takes Eve the novel shifts in tone and topic. We only hear about scientific topics and the problems of the world through the news, while we basically read a family drama. We see the first years of Eve’s life through the eyes of Kate. We see how Kate struggles with the situation, always in fear of being caught by the foundation and getting Eve taken away from her.

Although not much really happens during this time, to me this is the most interesting part of the novel. I think the author manages to portray Kate’s character very well. We become familiar with her past trauma which shaped her and although she does not practice as a scientist anymore, we can still see the scientist in her. The way she observes every situation and how everything is described, the reader can see her scientistic approaches. This becomes very clear when Eve interacts with Sami, the son of a friend of Kate. Kate acts as an observer, comparing Eves and Sami’s physical attributes, psychological attributes, and the way they develop.

When Eve and Kate are taken by the foundation again the narrative does not return to scientific topics but rather keeps focus on Kate and Eve’s personal problems. After Eve is told about her real identity, the perspective shifts to her. We learn about her insecurities, about how she avoids other people due to her difference in appearance and her slow articulation. We witness her teenage years and eventually how she has to take care of her dying mother while the world around her seems to end.

All in all, I think that it was a good choice by the author to focus more on the two main characters instead of the science fiction plot. Especially focusing on Eve was a great choice because the reader gets to know her differences but also her similarities to homo sapiens. We get to know how she questions herself, feels insecure, and how she in the end can look after herself and go as far as to travel around the whole world finding other Neanderthals.