The Fox Inheritance. Mary E. Pearson. Henry Holt & Co. 2011. Review copy from publisher. Audiobook from Macmillan Audio. Narrated by Matthew Brown. 2011. Review copy from publisher. Book 2 of the Jenna Fox Chronicles.
Two hundred sixty years later, Locke and Kara’s stored minds and memories are made part of new, perfect, synthetic bodies. A second life.
Everything and everyone they knew is gone. During those years, Locke and Kara existed, had been aware, been there for each other in the dark void. Now they are in new bodies . . . a little taller. A little stronger. A little more good looking. A little more perfect.
Can two people who went through what they went through really be the same people? With manufactured bodies and downloaded memories, are they people?
The Good: Locke and Kara have spent a year at the estate of Dr. Gatsbro, the man responsible for their lives and new bodies. He cares for them, has hired people to help him, keeps them safe at his isolated mansion as they learn about this new world. Kara is suspicious of the doctor, and Locke — despite loving her, despite their bond from friendship and hundreds of years shared in the dark — wonders if he can trust Kara, if she’s the same person she was. When it turns out that Kara and Locke are samples to show off to perspective buyers — people seeking immortality by creating ageless, perfect younger versions of themselves to download into before they die — the two run away. Once away from their safe, guarded prison, Kara and Locke realize that Dr. Gatsbro was selective in what he told them about the world.
Locke and Kara go” home” to Boston; but it is not the Boston they knew. Imagine, a person from 1751 waking up in 2011. Imagine them looking for their house, beliveving, somehow, that something of what they knew still exists. That is Kara and Locke. They have something that a person from 1751 wouldn’t have: Jenna. Jenna Fox, the girl who died with them, was reborn like they were — except for Jenna, it happened shortly after the car crash. Instead of centuries in isolation, Jenna has had a life. Kara and Locke get separated, but both seek out Jenna. Locke, because Jenna was his best friend. Kara, for revenge for abandoning them. Locke is in a race, to find Jenna first, to find Kara, as he hopes that Jenna has answers and that Kara remembers the friendship the three once shared. Both also are trying to keep from getting caught by Dr. Gatsbro.
The teenage friendship of these three is depicted as magical; and isn’t that true? The magic of like minds meeting, of finding friends who love you, of sharing life and love and laughs. Friends who bring out the best in each other. Locke flashbacks frequently to their friendship before, so the reader feels the loss as strongly as Locke does and, like Locke, wants the magic back and is angered at all that has been lost.
Oh brave new world; I was fascinated by the future Pearson has created. Shoes that mold to your feet. Free public transportation. A political structure where two separate governments and citizens share the same borders. And, of course, synthetic bodies and standards that struggle to define what it is to be human. All this is shown through Locke’s eyes, so we see what he sees and learns what he learns, all through a perspective of a reluctant teen time travel. For Locke is a teen — mentally he may have lived centuries, but since those centuries were in a dark void with only Kara for company, Locke has had no chance to grow or mature.
This is a sequel to The Adoration of Jenna Fox, the story of Jenna’s days after the car crash. Readers of that book will know more than Kara and Locke about what Jenna did and did not do.
Jenna lives in California, so Locke starts a road trip across the country. What a road trip! Locke’s traveling companions are Miesha, the attendant Dr. Gatsbro hired to look after Locke and Kara who feels guilty for the part she played in his scheme; and Dot. Dot is a fascinating character; one of the most memorable and original people I’ve met in a book in 2011. Dot drives a taxi, and looks human from the waist up. As a robot taxi driver, from the waist down she is part of the car she drives. Yet, Dot is not a robot. When Locke enters her taxi, seeking to run, seeking help, Dot goes against her programming and helps him. Dot yearns to be more than she is, wants to have a story to tell others like herself who are trapped in designs not of their own choosing. The crazy, futuristic road trip these three take is fantastic, fun, and scary.
What does it mean to be human? Is Jenna more human than Locke and Kara? Are Lock and Kara human? What about Dot?