Thursday, September 8, 2011
BOOK REVIEW: The Prospect of My Arrival -- By Dwight Okita
“You’ll be the first baby ever to be given the chance to preview the world—before choosing to be born or not. You will have three weeks to make up your mind.” Dwight Okita
I first encountered The Prospect of my Arrival when I served as a judge in the inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards Contest. The 5,000 word excerpt was one of the half dozen which has haunted me for the years since, particularly because the story is one of the most unique I’ve ever read. Prospect was a finalist in both the 2008 and 2009 ABNA contests and has well-deserved the positive commentary in both venues.
Finally, the book's coming out and I was fortunate enough to receive an Advance Reader Copy from the author. It's been a long three-plus years to wait, but I can tell you the end result was well worthwhile.
How many of you would choose to be born if you had a chance to preview the world you’d be born into? Thanks to science, that’s the opportunity Prospect has been afforded.
Scientist and “Facilitator” Dr. Trish Mesmer introduces Prospect to the Pre-Born Project. He will get a chance to meet a range of people from all walks of life to help him make up his mind whether to be born or not. These people, who Trish terms “Referrals”, will form a type of knowledge base around Prospect that will help him make up his mind whether to choose to be born or to return back to the gene pool. The latter choice may well mean that Prospect is never born, Trish cannot answer that question. He may go back to a “pool of possibilities to be born another time.” Or not.
Prepared with a wallet, cellphone, ID, credit cards, spiral notebook, pens, computer tablet, and snacks, Prospect goes out into the world unguided to explore. Prospect is allowed to live in a twenty-year-old body developed especially for him. This body has no fingerprints, but gains knowledge from a special chip called a Cybersavant which allows Prospect to understand and interact with the world. He will have gaps in his knowledge and these gaps are going to cause him some trouble according to Trish. He’s got to watch out for his weaknesses and just do the best he can.
Of course, not everyone supports this experiment in ultimate choice. Prospect gets threats via the phone to leave the “abomination” of the Pre-Born Project. From what source these threats are coming from, he doesn’t know. On the other hand, Karl Bangor of Big Farm Corp, one of the executives of the corporation who designed the body Prospect inhabits, doesn’t see the Pre-Born Project quite the same way as Trish. It’s a nuisance to him and he just wants Prospect to decide to be born. That’s the best outcome for his employer and he’ll do what he can to make that happen including urging the Referrals to support a birth decision so Prospect can hurry up and be born.
Prospect has several Referrals scheduled, from the woman who’s to be his birth mother to Irene, an elderly greeting card designer who is dying of cancer. Prospect is scheduled to run the gamut of life experience in order for him to make an informed decision.
Prospect is a strong and different story which is difficult to classify, because it contains both elements of dystopic science fiction along with a touch of Young Adult coming of age. Those of a philosophical or ethical bent will want to discuss the implications of a child's choice on whether to be born along with other aspects of Prospect's near-future world.
Prospect’s character is written so well you want to nurture him and guide him through the best of what this world has to offer. Frankly, from the beginning, I hoped that Prospect would be born because I felt the character’s sweetness and willingness to experience life non-judgmentally would be a fine addition to the gene pool.
And those of us with maternal instincts are occasionally biting our nails through the more difficult encounters. Prospect gets lost, finds his way and finds unique opportunities through the experience. Reading this story is very much akin to the exhilaration of your first carnival ride followed straight on by getting lost in the gritty works of the midway.
All is not rosy. His future mother is the first Referral. Prospect learns he has a sister, Joyce, who may well have met a bad end. Another referral, Trevor, was chosen because he’s a difficult person to deal with (in his own words) and he’s opposed to the Pre-Born Project.
I was asked by the author what scene touched me the most. That's a difficult decision and even harder to place in a review for fear of spoilers. For me, the most compelling scene in the book was with the greeting card author who is dying from cancer. Given a moment, Irene could create a verse that so reflected a person's life. On the page, you saw the beginning in Prospect with all the sweet potential and the end in this author with all the bittersweet poignancy. The contrast was as sharp as black and white and one of the most beautifully and compassionately written scenes I've read in a long time.
Prospect has definitely evolved through the two early iterations I had the privilege of reading via the ABNA until now. All those questions asked via Amazon.com in the open reviews of Dwight Okita’s work have made him a stronger writer. He’s also the kind of person who accepts criticism with stoic grace. I admire his perseverance and I still predict that his prospects are going to be bright for his future in writing.
For those of you interested in ordering The Prospect of My Arrival, the soft cover will be available in October with the Kindle version to follow in November.
To order the book, please visit 'The Prospect of My Arrival' at CreateSpace.com. The link will not be active until the title is released and that may be towards the end of September.
Rebecca Kyle, September 2011