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Sims Book One: La Causa

F. Paul Wilson

Cemetery Dance

US Hardcover Limited First

ISBN 1-587-67003-8

Publication Date: 06-01-2000

136 Pages; $35.00

Date Reviewed: 03-13-03

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2003



Science Fiction, General Fiction

08-26-02, 12-06-02, 01-07-03

Author F. Paul Wilson is a medical doctor who is known for writing a wide variety of genre fiction. He's written science fiction, supernatural horror, borderline mysteries, and medical thrillers. In the 'Author's Note' that precedes the novella, first in a series of "five or six", Wilson says that he "had been toying a while with this idea about the legal, moral and ethical questions that might surround a species of chimpanzees genetically altered to be even closer to homo sapiens than they already are." The result is very peculiar but very effective mix of page-turning thriller, scientific speculation and a revision of the present that's not alternate history. Wilson has been very careful to construct his world so that he can talk about a number of intriguing moral and ethical problems while maintaining a practically breathless pace. 'Sims Book One: La Causa' effortlessly pulls readers into a world where the implications of genetic engineering that trouble us now have been made concrete and given speech.

Patrick Sullivan is an ambitious but not vicious lawyer who is looking to improve his station in life. He wants into the exclusive golf club whose snobby president has told him in no uncertain terms that hell will freeze over before it happens. While golfing with a potential client, Sullivan is approached by a Sim, a chimpanzee genetically engineered so that it can speak and perform menial tasks. Sims are the property of the company that created them, SimGen. They are leased "for their own protection" for cheap dependable labor. The Sim who approaches Sullivan is named Tome and he has a request. He wants Sullivan to help the Sims who are leased to the golf club unionize. When Sullivan agrees, he lands himself in a world of hurt.

Wilson has a picture that is much bigger than the reader is going to see in the first book of this series. But his characters are engaging, realistic and enjoyable to read about. His mystery is particularly intriguing. SimGen has more secrets than the usual dreadnought corporation. Wilson's legal advisors (he thanks them in the front of the book) have provided him with a fascinating legal problem, and lots of good advice to make the problems he creates seem endlessly detailed and fascinating. The plot is a very tight little rocket ride, and this novella will read a lot faster than readers have any right to expect.

What Wilson has done best here, however, is to create a story that is not a straightforward thriller, set in our world, but neither is it an alternate history. The scientific advances he posits are clearly now within our reach. Instead, he's recreated the present, with one addition, the sims. He's woven them effectively into our world, and his effortless prose and clever world design annihilate doubts in a page turning frenzy. He's designed a bell jar of a novel, where he can effectively force the reader to consider the issues he wants to put on the table, all the while taking characters we like through tribulations we want to see them through. The machinations of the plot do more than serve the ethical and moral considerations -- they embody them. It's a very clever setup, and the first novella is a hook, line and sinker deal. Readers will swallow it whole. How the following episodes pan out will of course determine the overall worth of the work. But judging from this beginning, Wilson has a real winner on his hands here.