Thursday, September 5, 2013
Prophet of Bones by Ted Kosmatka
If you like: alternative history * The X-Files * evolution
Prophet of Bones is an alternative history where evolution has been disproven and religion has changed everything we believe about Earth's timeline. When a group of scientists are involved in a dig that unearths some strange bones that contradict common beliefs, their lives are immediately in peril. They must work to try to save themselves from the danger, all while trying to learn the truth. They would like to know what evolution really means more than they would like to save their own lives.
The truth is a flexible concept in Prophet of Bones. Evolution has been disproved, primarily by the religious leaders. It is hard to know what their motives are and if they have covered up what is real. Many different universities are financially backed by religious institutions, and what people believe is often based on years of indoctrination rather than science. Darwin is mocked, even when so much of what we know to be true still exists. How can anyone find the truth when they're surrounded by lies, corruption, and greed? The fluidity of truth from scientists’ perspective provides an interesting aspect of the story; there are many different scientists who believe many things that seem irrational given the role of science in our world. At the same time, it is easy to see how money and political agendas can shape the belief system and make what seems obvious questionable. Given the power of religion in our modern world, it is easy to see just how this sort of situation can develop. Is the scenario entirely fictional, or are we just around the corner from entering this brave new world ourselves?
In contrast with the corruption of truth, the power of curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge also plays an important role in Prophet of Bones. Paul is driven by an undying curiosity throughout his entire life, even though it has caused him trouble in the past. In spite of the problems with his father that are exacerbated by his pursuit of science, he still follows down a similar career path to him. The pain of his father's anger cannot stop him from possessing the same curiosity of mind. Paul meets many like-minded individuals, or so he thinks, and their synergy inspires them to pursue a dangerous path of knowledge. Though he knows he should not ask certain questions, Paul cannot help but wonder about the history of evolution and humans. In some ways, we are all craving the knowledge of who has come before and what might come in the future. Though many would not be as brave as Paul, the reader will find what Paul sacrifices in pursuit of his goals admirable. The danger is perilous at times, and some of the otherworldly creations can be repulsive; it is fascinating to imagine a combination of Jurassic Park and human evolution. Paul may be a prophet of bones, but he is also like a child with his very first science experiment. He is surrounded by a world of wonder and cannot help picking things apart to find out what they are made of. This fascination and unwillingness to be deterred makes Paul an unintentional hero; though we may not want to be Paul, we are glad that there are Pauls out there to find these new discoveries. Kosmatka encourages us all to be more open-minded and question what we are told. In a religiously controlled world where the truth can so easily be denied and mad men can corrupt the truth, we must continue to pursue scientific knowledge. We cannot let political agendas diminish our exploratory nature and pursuit of answers.
If you can't help but want to know how everything came to be, read Prophet of bones.
Kosmatka, Ted. Prophet of Bones. Henry Holt, 2013.