Paradise might not be so perfect

Carol A. Wright

By A Contributor

Be careful next time you choose to live the life of wealth, luxury and perfection on an island like “Demesne.”

Demesne is the futuristic location featured in “BETA,” the first of four installations which is almost ‘perfectly’ presented by author Rachel Cohn.Cohn is no stranger in paradise than she seems to be in every day life. In her adolescence, she had wished for a diagnosis of scoliosis. This wish was due to her wanting to be like “Deenie,” the character portrayed in Judy Blume’s novel.

When Cohn reached adulthood, she realized then that she had a fairly normal spine. What she developed instead was inspiration from Blume and other writers of juvenile literature, such as Ellen Conford and E.L. Konigsburg.Her reasons are vague as to why she is so successful at writing from a teen’s perspective other than somehow she can relate to teens based on some of her own experiences of her youth. Regardless, Cohn is a well-known author of 11 young adult novels, including “Gingerbread,” “Shrimp,” “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” and others.Book one in the “BETA” series is suspenseful, scary and prophetic.

Don’t let those shimmering violet-blue waters that have healing powers fool you, and how is it that the oxygen humans breathe is so pure that people experience a euphoria just by being outdoors, breathing the richness? Ahhh…could it get better than this?’

This’ is an island where humans do not work and mess with daily chores. Clones take over for the most part, and each one has a specific role: to serve and please humans.The clones look human, are programmed to say the right comments and are without souls. In order for a clone to be produced, a person has to die. In turn, the clones receive the organs of the deceased…rather a bit disturbing for some readers.The main character is “Elysia,” a 16-year-old experimental Beta clone, who was bio-genetically engineered on the island. It turns out that Elysia was a mistake, that the doctor had not yet perfected the teen line.But her creator sees a grand beauty in Elysia’s eyes, her complexion and her full lips. Her creator is overjoyed with the young clone’s cooperativeness.Indeed, Elysia fetches a good price when she is sold at a boutique.

From that moment forward, humans see much potential in Elysia.Humans who live a life of Riley on the island can purchase adult clones. Actually humans prefer any clone except a teenage clone. The parents are fed up, tired of teen rebellion, spoiled behavior and lazy attitudes. However, the family that adopted Elysia is pleased with her polite responses as she entertains wealthy socialites, neighbors and friends. Supposedly, Elysia has been programmed to not feel, not express emotions like humans do, to not possess any of the seven human senses. But eventually she discovers that she does not need to gulp those specially-concocted chemical strawberry shakes. She soon develops an addiction to macaroni and cheese, and chocolate.

Elysia begins to have memories of her “First,” the one person who is now inhabiting Elysia, plus she begins to revolt against the humans. So, it’s kind of like a clash between clones and humans.

I really became absorbed with Cohn’s novel. Her writing is sharp, penetrating, sometimes generously funny and most of the time genuinely terrifying. However, I was rather disappointed with how the first book ended. On the other hand, Cohn makes you think of other possibilities or outcomes. This is one reason why I am thankful to her for continuing with part two of the science fiction series, “Emergent,” tentatively scheduled for publication in March next year.

Much emphasis and debate have been made on the significance of cloning and how far people should go in their efforts to experiment with bio-genetics. Will the efforts end in ecological, social and political disaster, or will they be a great addition to medical science?

I don’t know about ‘you,’ but I would caution myself to better think twice before settling down and making my home a permanent paradise on such an island.

   Carol A. Wright is a former Manhattan resident who currently works as a freelance writer.

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