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Theory of Bastards

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  941 ratings  ·  187 reviews
Francine decided to share her MacArthur award with the Foundation so that she could study a group of remarkable animals, gentle and intelligent – the perfect creatures to certify her astonishing theory of reproduction, a revolutionary concept that has already changed genetic testing and unmasked public figures and past presidents.

As Francine learns more about her fascinati
ebook, 416 pages
Published April 24th 2018 by Europa Editions
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Shveta Thakrar Most authors have zero say in their covers, which is why there used to be such a problem of whitewashed covers on novels about characters of color,…moreMost authors have zero say in their covers, which is why there used to be such a problem of whitewashed covers on novels about characters of color, for example.(less)

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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  941 ratings  ·  187 reviews

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May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part tech-fi, part social study, Theory of Bastards is wholly entertaining. But it's not due to a fast paced plot or nasty piece of technology threatening to end the world. No, the beauty in this book lies with its literary qualities, perfect prose, and complex characters; bonobo and human alike.

Frankie is a scientist, wooed by The Foundation to study bonobos. She's recovering from a life long battle with endometriosis which has crippled her personal life, yet allowed her to focus her energy in
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: Philip K. Dick award
When I say I always look for books that are unusual, Theory of Bastards is the kind of novel I mean.

I came across this one while perusing various sci-fi award nominees and winners for the year. Somehow Theory of Bastards landed on the short list of Philip K. Dick award, even though I feel this book has a very tenuous connection to science fiction as we traditionally understand it.

If I try to summarize it, it is basically about survival after a technological apocalypse. It's not exactly a fresh
Cindy Burnett
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

First, this book is unique and hard to describe, but I loved every minute of it. Second, I am truly baffled by the cover which bears little relation to the story; book covers that do not properly depict what is inside the book are a huge pet peeve of mine. Theory of Bastards is set in the near future when resources are scarce and technology controls virtually everything. Schulman’s prose is crisp, compelling, and lyrical, and she crafts characters who are complex, thoughtful, and clever
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Closing the last page of Theory of Bastards is almost like arriving back home after being immersed in another culture for days or weeks. It’s that bittersweet. I hardly know how to do justice to it.

Imagine taking Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, combining it with We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler and Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood, and then blending it into its own unique and riveting narrative that explores the inner lives of its characters. That only scratc
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
Francine (Frankie) is finally able to live her life the way she’d like to. Up until now, her life has been full of pain due to an undiagnosed disease but now she’s pain free. She’s well known for her scientific discovery, “The Theory of Bastards”, and has been given a grant to study bonobos. When a dust storm is expected and mandatory evacuation is imposed, she makes a decision to stay and care for the bonobos, along with the man she loves.

This was an unexpected joy of a book. It takes place in
Gotta love it when a book opens with a quote from (I'm guessing) The Subtle Knife...
(Maybe it's from The Amber Spyglass?)
"But sometimes a tool may have other uses that you don't know. Sometimes in doing what you intend, you also do what the knife intends, without knowing." - PHILIP PULLMAN
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book because David Plotz of the Political Gabfest recommended it, and we have very similar book tastes. He said it reminded him of and was as good as Station Eleven, but I'd say it was even better.

The first half of the novel, which I read over three days, focuses on the backstory of the protagonist, Frankie, and her current life studying bonobos in a laboratory setting. Frankie is recovering from endometriosis, which we learn about (immeasurable pain and nobody taking it seriously b
Megan Prokott
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Rarely have I read a book that made me look at ethics, technology, animals, and communication with such a discerning eye. The dystopian underpinnings of Theory of Bastards presents itself subtly as we enter the book and kicks up significantly about halfway through as disaster strikes the Foundation. Schulman excels in this genre and makes her readers ask hard questions about not-far-away future possibilities and the extreme pros and cons of technology and medical advancements. We also face the r ...more
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I couldn’t put this book down: 416 pages, and I finished it in 4 days. It’s a story of illness, of scientific discovery, of animal behaviour, and of the apocalypse, and yet it’s also something more. Every character is exquisite, every sentence is carefully crafted, and every idea has been deeply researched. The lead figure, Frankie, is somehow both an everywoman for us all, and also heroic beyond belief. “Theory of Bastards” is a superb and extraordinary novel.
Andy Lillich
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must confess that I LOVED Schulman's Ten Weeks in December - and was delighted to hear she had a new novel out. To me, she is a Master of her own unique style of inventing what feel to me like wholly original stories that intertwine disparate plots that detail moments in the lives of wholly unique - yet believable characters, stories that are also filled with scrupulously researched factual material - some of it scientific, some of it speculative. I especially share her love of the subject of ...more
Nerdette Podcast
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is about a lot of things: evolutionary theory, our reliance on tech, bonobo monkeys, endometriosis, home, touch, breath, life. But all you really need to know is that it is phenomenal.
switterbug (Betsey)
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Imagine the near future—maybe 40 years from now. Technology has advanced to skin implants and and special eye lenses to access the Internet. Printers print out 3-D “food,”—paper loaded with nutrients and fed to mostly animals. “Poly-roaches” are viruses that can entirely shut down digital networks. Climate change effects are now extreme; there are terrible floods and also raging dust storms that cause serious respiratory illnesses, like debilitating asthma.

Into this world steps Frankie Burke, a
Izzy Bartling
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A strange, strange book that was weirdly captivating. Very different from what I normally read but undoubtedly a book I will never forget.
Schulman's prose and character development is incredibly unique. Also, the story completely morphed from being distant and fact-heavy to an emotional catapult filled with theories on the complex observations of love, family, and loss.
It's kind of a hidden gem, something I never thought I'd like.
Robin Meadows
May 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
A big WHAT? I loved the first half - so interesting and engaging. But the last third is the equivalent of a chase scene in a movie, all blow-by-blow filler. Such a let down.
Mar 24, 2018 marked it as dnf-arcs
(Abandoned at 33%.) Theory of Bastards is a peculiar, even confounding, novel. The blurb doesn't provide an adequate summary of the plot; the title seems disconnected from the story, the cover even more so; it is occasionally very sharp but has long stretches of dull, dry text that eventually made me give up altogether.

There are multiple plotlines: Frankie's study of the bonobos; her relationship with Stotts; her experience of endometriosis; the inescapable influence of bodywear. They haven't y
Mary Lins
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: complete
“Theory of Bastards”, by Audrey Schulman completely captivated me! I’m a fan of futuristic “speculative fiction” and of novels about anthropology, so this one was right in my sweet spot. That it was also beautifully written with captivating characters (including the bonobos!) was icing on the cake.

The ending wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but upon reflection, it wasn’t what the characters were expecting either – good work Ms. Schulman!
Boris Feldman
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Bonobos and scientists, love and fear. Post-apocalyptic interspecies sex. Short-listed for the Chimp-Booker Prize.
Lauren Hopkins
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't know wth happened but this book went from 'best book I read all year because it's about subversive evolutionary theories" to fkn "The Last of Us" with apes in literally one page and I feel so betrayed.
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
similar to station eleven, state of wonder
misleading description, cover, and title
lots of action, very well written
ending slightly unsatisfying
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expect any worthwhile novel to touch on a smattering of my intellectual interests, weaving them together in a fresh and entertaining fashion. It is rare, however, for a single story to engage with a manifold range of subjects about which I am deeply passionate, and rarer still for that synthesis to prove itself more artful than awkward. Audrey Schulman’s Theory of Bastards is one such story. This unique and captivating book explores the nature of evolution and the scientific endeavor, the bene ...more
Michelle Morrell
Another of the PK Dick Nominees, this is my favorite so far. Smart people doing smart things with smart primates. I thought the characters were well drawn, the story was interesting, and it was written in such a way that the tale was the focus, not the "writing."

I enjoyed the deeply personal pursuit of knowledge from each character, and their very believeable flaws and strengths. I liked how reasonable the near future tech resonated, and I do feel like I came out the other end a little bit smar
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Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Francine Burk, recovering from life-changing endometriosis surgery, begins to study a group of bonobos to continue her evolutionary studies.

Here's me, internally running around screaming "This book is so freaking good!!!". I finished this, closed the cover, put my hand on it, and said "Thank you. This is why I read books."

It's set in a very near future when our dependence on technology has advanced just one more inevitable step: our computers are now implanted in our bodies and we use our ey
Sally Ember
Audrey Schulman has crafted a somewhat unique novel of the near-future, with post-apocalyptic events, implanted tech, human-animal interactions, and a lot of science facts mixed in with a surprising amount of seemingly irrelevant information about the protagonist's previous research (based on OTHER actual experiments done by real people who supposedly bear no resemblance to this character... so, why?). I wanted to like this book, and it was strangely compelling.

However... Some spoilers, here...

Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I really liked the narrator of this book and I was compelled to keep reading. however, by the end it was an anticlimax, and it followed the same well-worn path of all dystopian novels without adding enough that was novel to the conversation.
Mark Pothier
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have never read anything like this, and could not put it down. You'll see the term "genre-crossing" applied, and that's true, but it's so much more than that it's impossible to imagine a working cover for it (this one doesn't). You know her characters from the guts out, the bonobos are central characters just as much as the humans, but nothing's cute. Sharp, caring, biting, prescient writing. Biggest surprise read in years...
Elliott Frank
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Hands-down the best book I've read this year. Schulman's pros are propulsive, joyful and heart-wrenching in equal measure.

I've seen some categorize this book as genre fiction, due to Shulman's use of day-after-next-Tuesday style of speculative technological advancement, but Theory of bastards is so masterfully constructed to that I would strongly recommend it to even the most genre-adverse literary purist.

While the Theory of Bastards is a story about human relationships and how those relations
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loooooooved it. Learned about bonobos and endo while enjoying a nice fiction novel with the future-y tech adding a touch of sci-fi.
James Lawless
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This story concerns social anthropologist Frankie Burke who receives a Foundation grant from a prestigious research institute to attempt to prove her theory of bastards by studying the behaviour of bonobos, an endangered species of apes who are exceptional in that they do not war with rival groups and have never been known to kill. With its repeated recording of the pre-prandial sex acts of the bonobos, the book comes across occasionally as more voyeuristic than the scientific research it purpor ...more
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the believably near future, a brilliant young scientist begins research at an under-funded Midwest facility that houses different types of apes. Frankie Burke will study the evolutionary and reproductive habits of the bonobos.

Frankie has experienced severe endometriosis, a disease of the female organs. Between Frankie's partial disability and the ape's regular exhibitions of sexual prowess, there is a keen focus on why the female is attracted to certain males, frequency and conditions, and t
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Norwescon: Theory of Bastards 3 9 Feb 03, 2019 01:48PM  
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Audrey Schulman is the author of three previous novels: Swimming With Jonah, The Cage, and A House Named Brazil. Her work has been translated into eleven languages. Born in Montreal, Schulman now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“If an answer didn’t come to her during this learning phase, she let the subject settle inside her. She no longer thought about it consciously, allowing instead some dark and muscled lobe of her brain to take over. The issue was broken down into components and absorbed, images from the material occasionally appearing in her thoughts like neuronal burps. Every once in awhile she’d flip through her notes, having no expectations but going through the ritual in order to goose her brain along. After her mind had worked on the problem like this for long enough—a few days, a month, maybe a whole year—the answer would suddenly hit her. The solution glittering and fully realized, as obvious as though someone much smarter had handed it to her, frustrated with how long she was taking.” 1 likes
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