Mommy Issues and Mommy‘s Issues

“Families, she thinks, normality. Not something she ever knew, not something she can ever provide.”

The relationship between a mother and her child is special. It’s a big topic in shows like Gilmore Girls or Downton Abbey; but we also have the typical main character with a dead mother, like in Hamilton, Beauty and the Beast, or Batman. The absence of, or trauma due to, a mother figure seems to be a more common motive in fiction, it just adds a little bit of spice.

So also in James Bradley’s Ghost Species. The relationship between Kate and her mother is mentioned a few times, but only really discussed in one scene.

Before I go into that though, I would like to add a trigger warning for mentions of alcohol, childhood trauma, and abuse. Also, an obvious spoiler alert for Ghost Species, in case you haven’t read it.

During the majority of Ghost Species, we are following Kate, see her view of the world and get to know what she thinks. Whenever her mother, Claire, is mentioned, we get to know that she doesn’t have the best relationship with her. From the first time that Claire is mentioned, it is clear that she is an alcoholic, which resulted in her not being able to properly take care of Kate.

Only when Claire dies do we get more information on her. She seemed to have had a bunch of boyfriends during Kate’s childhood. One of those is discussed in more detail: A man named Paul, who made Kate deeply uncomfortable by staring at her and making dirty jokes. That makes you think: What if he wasn’t the only one? Claire might have had more boyfriends who were making Kate uncomfortable, maybe even more than that. And maybe these experiences made her trust men less. Maybe that is why she never seems to fully trust Jay.

During her childhood, Kate tried to spend as much time outside of the house as possible, doing homework at a friend’s house. This is not a surprise, since she had to deal with her mother’s hallucinations of men following her, her alcoholism, and her showing up with bruises all over her body with no explanation.

When Kate was finally old enough, she moved away from her mother, not only distancing herself geographically from her but also emotionally. Regardless of how hard she tried, growing up with her mother’s way of life influenced her. Everything she had seen, what she had to deal with, is still in her subconscious. This also shows in the way she never seems to be able to settle in one place, she never seems to have a home. Just a place to stay at, ready to leave it in case she has to. This is also portrayed when she flees with Eve. The way she lives with Eve for years is very similar to the way she spent her childhood. In a way, she became like her mother. She became more like the person responsible for her trauma, more like the person she never wanted to be.

“Eve is not an Experiment, she is a conscious being, she deserves the right to find her own path, to be her own person.“

Despite this, Kate has also managed to achieve what she strove for in the first place: to create a safe environment in which her daughter Eve can grow and learn. This desire seems to be one of the most, if not the most driving force behind the actions and decisions Kate takes throughout the course of the story.

There is an almost supernatural sense of certainty and confidence with which Kate upholds her belief in Eveˋs human (or neanderthal) rights. It is striking what measures she takes to fight for her daughter, even though she never had someone do the same for her. Kate speaks up and takes charge whenever her daughter’s well-being is at risk. This hero-esque behavior culminates when Kate abducts Eve from the specialized facility that is able to provide professional healthcare and security. Kate as a biologist knows firsthand that Eve’s development is unknown due to her different genetic makeup. One time her daughter gets sick with a high fever she is not even sure how Eve‘s body will react to Paracetamol. We get to see this other side of Kate. Taking her own upbringing into account, the fact that she has experienced how the selfishness of others can affect one’s own personal life for the worse points to behavior that is irresponsible and motivated by short-sighted self-interest. Like so many of us, Kate is living with what she has subconsciously learned along the way, and that’s how she carries the trauma with her.

During Eve’s childhood, the two are very closely bonded and remain so throughout her more rebellious and moody years. As she grows up and becomes her own person rather than a shy infant, conflict arises. Once, she gets in a fight with Kate after sneaking out at night to secretly meet some of her friends and accidentally pushes her over.  After Kate is diagnosed with a brain tumor and her health deteriorates rapidly, her roles as caregiver and dependent are gradually reversed. Just like her mother did years prior, Eve stands by her side and takes care of the other unconditionally. The two women are deeply bonded by the turbulent and unusual life that they share. When Kate dies shortly after, Eve cannot help but wonder how much she actually knew about her mother as a person. This feeling of distance and strangeness, of not knowing for certain what is going on in the other person’s mind, is a recurring motif. Of course, there is an obvious difference in species, in chemical makeup and genetics, but still: Kate and Eve show us that the mother-daughter connection is a complicated and intangible bond that can transcend those differences.

Human Connection – How a Neanderthal Inspires Homo Sapiens

by Robert Strate

If I had to choose one thing that all humans have in common, it would be our desire to connect with others. One of my favorite quotes is by a famed and iconic violinist, the late Isaac Stern. He said, “Music happens between the notes’’ and this quote was later turned into “Trust happens between the meetings’’ by guru Simon Sinek. I have been pretty infatuated with the concept of human connection for a while now and I always appreciate it when it finds its way into any art medium. Ghost Species is heavily focused on interpersonal relationships and does a great job of showing not only why these connections are important, how easily they can happen, and especially how characters in the story benefit from them. A prime example of this is the character of Eve in her relationships.

Eve is different. This aspect of her life is reinforced time and time again throughout the entire novel. Surface level observations aside though, Eve may not be that different from every other ‘regular’ cast member. It was often the case for me while reading that I forgot Eve was supposed to be the odd one out and it was not until I was reminded of her differences again that the thought re-entered my brain. A way in which Eve is made to feel more like every other human in the story is her desire for connection, which to me sits at the very core of her character. This desire is shown extremely well through her relationships with other members of the cast, mainly her friends Sami and Lukas. Her interactions with them are very human, very real. Eve is not against going to the party with Sami and Lukas despite being aware of how different she is, likely because she has fond memories of playing together with Sami as a child. She remembers and realizes how good it feels to share a moment with others, even at a fairly young age. It is here that she gets to know Lukas a bit better, who is of great help to her further into the novel when Eve fails to acquire the necessary medication for her mother. Towards the end of the novel, she chooses to stay with Lukas and accompanies him to the compound instead of staying on her own. Things do end up getting ugly, but Eve learns valuable lessons in trust from Sami’s betrayal and the importance of fighting for those dear to you when Drako threatens to kill Lukas. All these personal developments have those seemingly trivial playdates with Sami at their core. Such is the effect and power of connection. It might very well be because of these memories that she eventually takes the risks that come with venturing out into the desolate ruins of the world, searching for others like her in the hope of connecting with someone.

To me, Eve as a character and her being a Neanderthal symbolizes how the need for connection has always fueled humankind, but more importantly how essential it is for humans. Something as random as Kate and Yasemin’s encounter led to Eve, who had all the odds stacked against her, shaping her own future. I am certain that no one really wants to be alone, and it is precisely this desire that gives us the strength to move forward, exactly how it did for Eve.

Trauma and Healing in Ghost Species

by Sevgi Osman

In James Bradley’s Ghost Species, Kate and Jay are recruited by billionaire Davis Hucken to recreate a different species of human being through engineering. After they find a surrogate, a neanderthal with human features named Eve is born, and Kate’s world changes. From an early age, Kate did not have a healthy and happy childhood. Her mother became an alcoholic when she was just thirteen. But thirteen was also the age when Kate began to take refuge in her own abilities, when she refused to meet up with friends because she had books, computers, and a lot to study for her tests. Growing up, she refused to register on any social media platforms, so her mother would not be able to find her anywhere. Kate left home and suddenly began to feel free again. When she met Jay at university, they instantly became friends and started dating soon after, but as they grew older, they wanted to try to have a baby. The aftermath of Kate’s pregnancy, the miscarriage, has shattered her in many ways. As a reader, we get the sense that Kate wanted to heal her inner child and trauma by being a great mother to her own child, something her mother was never able to do. So when Eve is born, Kate immediately asks Jay if she can take care of her. As soon as Jay explains to her that such a thing is not possible and that she has to be taken care of by specialists, Kate gets the feeling that Eve will always remain an experiment, which results in her running away with a very young Eve. It is clear that Kate does not want Eve to feel like an experiment or for Eve to have a bad childhood like she did. In those moments when Kate spends time with Eve, she begins to heal from her past. Eve and Kate complement one another: “(…) when Eve laughs Kate feels the dopamine rush of love.” (p.70). It seems as though Kate’s childhood affected how she treats her children when she’s a mother. Even if she’s not the biological mother of Eve, she sees her as her own daughter because she wants to help her be happy and feel appreciated.

Eve, from a young age, is taken care of by Kate. Although Kate takes good care of her and makes sure she stays hidden from the outside, Eve is very lonely and isolated. Her being hidden in Kate’s pram and having no social contact would worsen her behaviour towards other humans in the future. In the chapter “foundling,” Kate remembers her childhood when they spent a night at a motel, because it reminded her of when she used to stay there with her mother.

Eve has always been different from other human beings, but her childhood impacted her adult life as well. It is explained that “[h]er capacity to manage social relationships is similarly less developed” (p.122). As for her natural abilities, she is also a slow speaker since her expressive language is slower. When confronted by Cassie, Eve got angry really fast, but when Cassie did not give up talking to her and had patience, Eve eventually gave in (p.128). After her childhood, Eve thinks about her life again and even if she is used to the isolation she still ponders: “(…) what will happen when Eve is older. How will she find friends? Develop relationships?” (p.134), it is clear that Kate keeping her isolated for so long was not good for her. Throughout the book, it is explained that Eve might grow up physically, but not psychologically. She still remains playful and witty like a child and gets angry easily when she has to concentrate to behave rationally. For example, when Kate forgot to get her raspberry-flavoured jelly, Eve gets angry easily, showing that her mentality has not developed as fast as a normal human being would. Her angriness often leaves her with the thought that she is misunderstood, but Kate always forgives her and helps her out. As a teenager, she cannot help but feel ugly because she doesn’t look like the other kids: “Is she the creature she sees online? Ugly, hulking, misshapen?” (p.178). She can see how other teenagers live for example by going to parties, but she never attends one herself. When she sees Sami for the first time again, she is again confronted with the fact that she feels isolated and lonely. Only when she starts making new friends does Eve start to socialize more and feel like a normal human being. Her path of healing begins by socializing with new people. She feels especially close to Lukas, since he knows how her loneliness feels, which is probably also why she agrees to stay with him after her mother (Kate) dies.

Both Eve and Kate find a way to heal their respective trauma, but they will always carry a piece of their trauma with them and remember that part of their childhood. Kate succeeds at being a better mother than her own mother and Eve succeeds in finding people who accept her as she is and make her feel less lonely.

Comparing Davis & the Foundation with Dystopian Villains

by Eva Musat

How have controlling villains in dystopian literature changed over time and how have they stayed the same? This is the question that I immediately thought of when reading the first 100 pages of Ghost Species, specifically when reading about the character of Davis and his company.

When reading the book, many similarities to other works of literature come to mind, for example, Brave New World (1932), 1984 (1948),and Fahrenheit 451 (1953). In the novels mentioned above, the ruling power that poses a danger is the government, or some form of a political group. In these types of dystopias, governments were presented as controlling and totalitarian. The expression used is “ruling with an iron fist”.

Some notable similarities can be seen with the storyline regarding the surrogate, Marija, who carried Eve that is extremely similar to the novel The Handmaid´s Tale (1985). In The Handmaid´s Tale, fertile women are captured and used as surrogates to produce children and combat a falling birth rate, which could otherwise impact the economy and lead to a crisis. While an economic reason is not responsible in Ghost Species, it can be seen as similar, since Marija´s surrogacy is used to revive an extinct species, in the hope of saving the world from an impending climate crisis.

Another similarity to a dystopian novel is the fact that Davis´s company has the resources to find Kate and Eve so easily and rules over their area with authority. This can be seen as a parallel to totalitarian governments and can even be seen as a nod to the novel 1984. When Jay informs Kate that: “Davis found you within days. We’ve been monitoring you ever since.”, I think of the propaganda slogan “Big Brother is watching you”. This slogan is used to reinforce the idea of surveillance as power in a ruling totalitarian state, a power that Davis obviously has.

It is interesting to see that nowadays when writing dystopias, the “ruling power” is no longer a government or group, but it is usually a single individual who possesses extremely large financial means, i.e. a billionaire. This type of villain can be found in most James Bond movies, such as A View to a Kill (1985), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), and more recently in Spectre (2015) and No Time to Die (2021). Further examples can be found in the movies Blade Runner (2017) and Ex Machina (2014). At this point in history, the dangerous and evil billionaire is just another trope.

In Ghost Species, we meet Davis Hucken, described as a “tech billionaire” with a massive facility built with “corporate money”. At first glance, Davis’s ideas of rebuilding an entire ecosystem seem very positive, just like the ideas of the villains mentioned above. It immediately becomes clear though, that because they are his ideas, he plans on being in charge.

The author, like many others, brings awareness to these kinds of powers, especially the ones fuelled by a large sum of money since they have become more prominent in our reality. Similarities between real-life “tech-billionaires” such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg and Davis Hucken’s character are made quite obvious by author James Bradley.

The “evil tech-billionaire” trope usually starts the same in every story. People believe that someone can save the world from ending, going into a climate crisis, or even solving world hunger. However, the story quickly develops and shows us that their plan is ruled by an ulterior motive such as world domination (in the examples above) or political gain, such as in the second season of The Politician (2019). Now even though Davis’s motives are not necessarily that extreme and villainous, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to ascribe similar motives.

Many people wonder why these types of tech-billionaire villains even want to “rule the world” and be in charge or have so much power over the people around them. This is partly answered by Davis when his motives are questioned: “Because we can”. This is what makes his character so haunting. He is so out of touch with reality that he believes he does not have to justify his actions. In the older literary novels, people simply followed the government because it gave them a sense of structure and security, nowadays people follow these tech-billionaires because they, in my opinion, believe that a greater good can be achieved with money.

As I see it, the main topic of the book is ethics. It is very closely connected to the main themes of the book, especially with Kate and Eve’s relationship, and the storyline of resurrecting Neanderthals. However, what I found most interesting was the fact that after a certain amount of money is involved ethics don’t matter anymore. This brings us back to the similarities of older villains in dystopias, who just like Davis and newer villains, disregard any moral or ethical implications of their plans. Lastly, I would like to mention that all the similarities I found between Ghost Species and the examples mentioned above bothered me a bit. If I recall correctly, it was not specified whether or not these examples exist in the world of the novel. So assuming that the stories of these works are known, after looking at all the examples above, one can begin to wonder why Kate, Jay, and even we in real life do not recognize these patterns and always fall for the same ploy. Where are the suspicion and doubt when looking at Davis´s plan? And why was Kate so upset after the birth of Eve, wasn’t the plan quite obviously implied? These are the questions that come to mind after comparing Ghost Species to all the other works of literature and films. Especially when realizing, that even though the villain is now an individual and not a group or government, the dystopian villains have quite a few things in common.

Parental Parallels in Ghost Species

by Antigoni Karaferi

Everyone’s childhood is unique and different in so many ways – that’s a fact. Each of us has different experiences and memories that will eventually shape our future selves, and if and how we choose to raise our own children one day. In this blog post, I want to look at how Kate and Eve were raised and compare how different, or how similar, their childhoods were. Was there something in Kate’s childhood that influenced the way she treated Eve as a child?

            Kate (a single mother) raised her daughter Eve mostly by herself, just like Kate’s own mother did. Kate’s childhood was dominated by her mother’s alcoholism. Many times, this forced Kate to take a step back and fall to second place when it came to her mother’s priorities. Kate had to learn how unreliable her mother was and learn how to take care of and look out for herself at a very young age. She took over her mother’s role and even went as far as reversing their respective roles. Claire became the child, having to rely heavily on Kate. A perfect example of this is the numerous times Kate had to deal with the consequences of drunk Claire’s antics – which Claire never even remembered.

            Kate’s mother’s alcoholism negatively shaped her childhood: She had both her parents missing, her father physically, and her mother mostly mentally. Claire’s alcoholism had an enormous impact on Kate’s social life as a child. Her friend’s parents deemed Kate to be a bad influence because of her mother, which made it really hard for Kate to keep the friends she made or even make new ones. This isolated Kate a lot from other people.

            As a child, Kate felt as if her mother did not care about her enough, which in turn made her dedicate her whole life to her own daughter Eve. She did not want her daughter to feel the form of abandonment she had felt as a child herself.

            Eve experienced a very different childhood in comparison to her mother Kate. Eve had a mother who was physically and mentally there throughout her whole life (until Kate’s passing). What shaped Eve especially was how much she stood out – just by her looks and the way she socialised. This is one fate both women shared in their childhoods: this certain degree of alienation, not fitting into the groups around you. The reason for this alienation is what differentiates the two: Claire’s alcoholism caused Kate’s alienation while Eve’s biological differences set her apart from the rest.

            Because of Kate’s intense fear of being caught, Eve spent a big part of her childhood hidden away. Her mother kept her away from other children her age, and also made a big effort to be by her side at all times. This caused Eve to become very dependent on her mother, she did little to nothing without her. Kate turned her life inside out to keep Eve away from the people who were looking for them. Eve became her number one priority in her life. This is the biggest difference in the women’s childhoods: Kate was never her mother’s priority, so she made sure to not make the same mistake with Eve.

Lonely Places in Ghost Species

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.

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.

Motherhood and Trauma in Ghost Species

by Hannah Reth

In the novel Ghost Species, Kate has to deal with what it means to be a parent, a task that can pose rather difficult considering her parental relationships that are either strained or nonexistent. The novel outlines Kate’s relationship with her mother through flashbacks which suggest that a kind of role reversal occurred. Kate taking care of her mother shows the level of maturity she had to take on when she was just a child. Her hesitation to have children of her own proves that she is reluctant to make the same mistakes and potentially become a version of her mother. Especially confronted with her past in the weeks and months following her abduction of Eve, Kate has to make ends meet and finds herself in the same near-impoverished circumstances she grew up in.

However, Kate attempts to be a better mother to “her” daughter. She is involved in Eve’s upbringing and education once they return to the facility; she even panics when Eve falls sick. What differentiates her from her mother, even more, is that she involves Eve in her own upbringing. She is honest about who Eve was and under what circumstances she was conceived, fully aware that it will affect Eve’s psyche. Growing up Kate had to accept things as they were presented to her. In Eve’s case, Kate offers her the opportunity to help shape her life along the way.

It also seems that she is rather reluctant to let Eve go. Consider the fact that she rarely approves of the measures that are to be taken to aid Eve in her growth. In the facility, Eve is supposed to get some form of psychological therapy and Kate is not really happy with the idea. When a nanny is employed by the facility, Kate is immediately worried that she could have too much influence on Eve. The only person connected to the facility she is actually willing to have near Eve when it is not absolutely necessary is Jay. She even goes as far as leaving her with him, when she must organize and attend her mother’s funeral.

Her not taking Eve to the funeral also shows that Kate does not want Eve to be involved in her past. She is willing to leave her behind, rather than take her to the place that makes her feel not only deeply uncomfortable but also reminds her of her maternal issues and trauma. While on the mainland she also tries to avoid getting too involved with her mother’s life. She does what she has to do when it comes to the funeral and pays for what seems to be the bare minimum. However, this shows that Kate feels a sense of responsibility for her family.

All those instances show us that Kate is a lot more affected by her mother’s parenting than is first suggested when Eve was not yet born, and that the trauma is a lot greater than it first seemed.

The Desire to Belong

by Tamara Dost

We all want to fit in somewhere. Or at least have people we feel connected to. This desire is normal for humans; but is it also typical for “non-sapient” organisms? Or is this desire and longing not exclusive to humans to begin with?

In the novel Ghost Species, written by James Bradley, we encounter a girl, Eve, who falls under the category of “non-sapient”.  She is the result of a scientific experiment in which humans attempted to recreate Neanderthals with the help of ancient genetic material, trying to gain a new perspective. They expected this perspective to be the ultimate solution to avoiding or postponing the inevitable doomsday of the earth, but instead, Eve shows very common, social, and “sapient” characteristics, especially considering her desire to belong to the people around her.

At first, we notice that she has a strong bond with Kate, the woman who raises Eve like her own child and who is the central mother figure in Eve’s life. This connection and established sense of belonging can easily be explained since Kate is the first person Eve grows up with. Just like a little duckling feels a connection towards the first creature they encounter after hatching, young Eve loves and belongs to Kate. Is this so different from human children?

Apart from the connection to her mother, she also establishes a relationship with Sami, a human boy she encounters in different stages of her life. She already knows Sami from her early years, but when she meets him again as a teenager, we notice that her behavior towards him shifts. She wants to be close to him and wants to fit in – and maybe she also wants to experience something apart from the routines of her life – which leads to her going to a party. During the party, she shows many signs of emotions expected from a sapient; the desire for a deeper connection with another person (in this case, with Sami, since she decides to kiss him) – the anxiety of being  “different” – we’ve all been there at least once, right? – and the loss of reason and personal limits to become a part of the group, which in this case is the consumption of unknown substances or more precisely drugs. After the party and after the kiss, her anxiety intensifies, especially because she tells Sami about being a homo neanderthalensis; “Why did Sami leave? […] What if he found her hideous all along? […] She feels nauseous at the thought of her own body, its repulsiveness.” (Bradley 194).

If we look at those emotions as an example of Eve’s possible feelings and desires, it is easy to say that she is not as different from a sapient as the scientists thought. Her actions and choices are very similar to those of humans you can encounter in everyday life; maybe even your own.

It is also noticeable that affiliation and belonging are not limited to people – be it homo sapiens or homo neanderthalensis – but that instead those feelings or actions can be seen in animals’ behavior as well; just like the duckling mentioned above. Many animals live in a social context in which relationships and connections are necessary for survival (to a certain extent).

We don’t really know whether all feelings humans are capable of can be found in other organisms, but we know that there are overlapping concepts and perceptions of urges and desires; whether they are purely controlled by instinct or by something yet unknown will either be answerable in the future or forever remain a mystery; especially considering that we are not able to reconstruct and witness a homo neanderthalensis’ social ability.

It’s Breezing from the South

by Jannik Weber

I think it’s fair to say that James Bradley’s Ghost Species took some pages out of Jurassic Park. Our protagonists are flown into the story by helicopter. They are brought in by a certain “foundation” looking to revive extinct species with the help of groundbreaking technology. Incidentally, most of the story takes place on an island as well. While the similarities mostly end there, the island location, Tasmania, in Ghost Species, adds a great deal to the atmosphere of the novel. But why is that?

The island starts out as a tranquil haven for the foundation to further its research. Here Davis, the foundation’s founder and main sponsor, has already begun populating their plot of land with bioengineered plants and un-extincted Tasmanian wolves. When our protagonist researchers, Kate and Jay, are first shown around the area, they take in the immensity of the environment around them and the plants that have already been altered and are thriving there. It becomes clear that Davis is aiming to create coherent ecosystems. But the ecosystem we are shown in Tasmania is only a testing ground. The life there which has been tampered with is wholly contained on an island. It cannot spill out into the world, and, more subtly than in Jurassic Park, the novel implies that perhaps it shouldn’t.

In the same initial walk around the foundation’s grounds, the reader is overcome with a sense of gloom when Kate finds herself located at the “end of the world” and “only empty ocean separating it from the distant ice of Antarctica”. The novel very often points toward Tasmania’s isolation, especially connecting it with notions of temperature. From a Eurasian point of view, which Ghost Species decidedly takes on, with a focus on human presence and history in the Old World, Tasmania exists on the periphery. As throughout the story the world is heating up, our characters mostly experience climate change from a distance, through news from the mainland. There, they first hear of mass extinctions and the destruction of fragile ecosystems and in later stages, civil unrest and evermore natural disasters as climate change seems to have reached a point of no return. In Tasmania, Kate is able to live and raise Eve relatively unbothered by the effects of climate change until her early death. But catastrophe is slowly but surely creeping towards them from the center. The story constantly reminds us of this inevitable fact and our assumed geographic position with events like “fires to the north and west”. Combined with the dominant presence of cliffs and sea to the south, and the numerous references to being at the edge of the world, the reader might, like Kate and Eve, feel backed into a corner.

Perhaps in an attempt to escape this state of being trapped between the heat approaching from the north and the unmovable ice walls of Antarctica to the south, Eve eventually sets out to travel away from the edge towards the center in her search for other Neanderthals. In this journey, she inadvertently retraces the movement of humans when they first spread around the globe. In this sense, the novel lays a large focus on human migration. The motivation behind Davis’s plan to resurrect Neanderthals is to right the wrongs Homo Sapiens have committed, by crusading from their east African origins to every corner of the world, exterminating Neanderthals on their way. It is at this edge of the world, the point of humanity’s furthest extent, where Eve is conceived. This ultimate act of Homo Sapiens’ hubris falls apart together with all other institutions of civil society. Through the ruins of Eve’s cousin species’ cities, she returns to the center of things, Neanderthal’s original home somewhere in Europe, and sets the metaphorical clock back to zero.

The reader is left to wonder whether it is humanity’s fate to fail. That spreading across the world to every edge was too great of an undertaking and bound to crumble like the Roman Empire. Are humans like an infection sending the earth into a deadly fever? Did they condemn it to a fate of overheating the moment they dared to venture farther than their place of origin? Kate offers us a line from a poem describing a group of islands not far south of Tasmania when lost in thought during a walk with Eve. According to it, these islands form “full stops to sentences about the end of the world”.