Ghost Species – about the Fallacies of Capitalism

by anonymous

The Australian novel Ghost Species by James Bradley talks extensively about the nature of human life, nature vs. nurture, finding your place in the world, etc.

Underlying its positive messages to these topics is a frankly horrifying depiction of how far a human being can go in pursuit of glory. This boils down to one character: Davis Hucken, a mogul who tries to use his vast fortune and technology to supposedly “solve” humanity’s woes that they caused themselves and to be seen as a hero for it (Totally not Elon Musk).

Though the focus is on Kate Larkin and her adopted daughter Eve, a resurrected Neanderthal who was born through a surrogate mother, Davis exists as a necessary device for the plot to happen in the first place, as the story is really about Kate and later Eve trying to get by in a world that is slowly falling apart around them. Davis might not be responsible for the state of the world, but he uses it as an opportunity to make money. To “wow” what is left of the world. To play God.

Though it is not what the novel was going for, the lack of focus on that conflict is a bit disappointing. Aside from Kate’s perspective, with her only friend being Yassamin, another mother, the readers don’t really get a glimpse of what the rest of the world does or what it is thinking. Unlike the Hunger Games, the book acknowledges the existence of non-English continents and that other people do actually exist in that world and are just as concerned about the state of the world as anyone else is. Yet, there is never a focus on these global issues.

But that begs the question: If nobody is there to witness these “wonders” Davis is pulling out of his sleeve, why is he is doing this? Besides the obvious, clear case of Savior’s Syndrome that he seems to have, with Kate clearly stating that he’s too sociopathic to be on the spectrum (Thanks, Kate!). But is he? While he is a modern Frankenstein (as others have pointed out) in more ways than one, he not only creates a thinking being out of nothing but then tosses it into a world to fend for herself. One might argue that he might’ve read Frankenstein and realized that refusing to take responsibility for his creation might be a bad idea. But then again, why is he doing this without anyone there to tell him how “great” he is?

Easy answer: To play God. When a person is presented with limitless power in a world that is more concerned with keeping itself together, something goes “crack” inside that person’s mind. They delude themselves into believing that they can not only do anything they want but also get away with it. That’s why Davis ‘should care: He would care about the glory if someone gave it to him, but he seems to be mostly bored out of his mind.

However, Davis disappears from the story once Eve takes over as the main character. What might’ve happened in those thirty years when Kate and Eve lived in hiding, then accepted funding from him for a good home? While he still had some power before they disappeared, it is most likely that his efforts were fruitless and that he should’ve focused on fixing the earth first, then bringing back the extinct species. While a few lines of dialogue do imply that he did try to counteract Global Warming, why is this supposedly just a side project that none of the main characters bat an eye at?

What is telling is that Kate and Jay were truly the only people who questioned him at any point. As far as the readers know, the other scientists might’ve accepted Davis’s money with a smile only to whisper “What a lunatic” under their breath.

Ghost Species shows exactly what happens when you let a megalomaniac man-child with too much money out in the world. They start building palaces and cathedrals out of glass. Then they use the same material to build animals and believe that they can actually be livestock. Then they build people, believing that not only do they actually think, but they also happen to enjoy their company and aren’t just here because they can’t run away. But glass has a tendency to crack and break.