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Ghost Species

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An exquisitely beautiful and deeply affecting exploration of connection and loss in an age of planetary trauma.

When scientist Kate Larkin joins a secretive project to re-engineer the climate by resurrecting extinct species, she becomes enmeshed in another, even more clandestine program to recreate our long-lost relatives, the Neanderthals. But when the first of the children, a girl called Eve, is born, Kate finds herself torn between her duties as a scientist and her urge to protect their time-lost creation.

Set against the backdrop of hastening climate catastrophe, Ghost Species is an exquisitely beautiful and deeply affecting exploration of connection and loss in an age of planetary trauma. For as Eve grows to adulthood she and Kate must face the question of who and what she is. Is she natural or artificial? Human or non-human? And perhaps most importantly, as civilisation unravels around them, is Eve the ghost species, or are we?

Thrillingly original, Ghost Species is embedded with a deep love and understanding of the natural world.

272 pages, Paperback

First published April 28, 2020

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About the author

James Bradley

30 books219 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James is the author of four novels: the critically acclaimed climate change narrative, Clade (Hamish Hamilton 2015), The Resurrectionist (Picador 2006), which explores the murky world of underground anatomists in Victorian England and was featured as one of Richard and Judy's Summer Reads in 2008; The Deep Field (Sceptre 1999), which is set in the near future and tells the story of a love affair between a photographer and a blind palaeontologist; and Wrack (Vintage 1997) about the search for a semi-mythical Portuguese wreck. He has also written a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus, the novella, Beauty's Sister, and edited The Penguin Book of the Ocean and Blur, a collection of stories by young Australian writers.

Twice one of The Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Novelists, his books have won The Age Fiction Book of the Year Award, the Fellowship of Australian Writers Literature Award and the Kathleen Mitchell Award, and have been shortlisted for awards such as the Miles Franklin Award, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the NSW Premier's Christina Stead Award for Fiction, the Victorian Premier's Award for Fiction and the Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, and have been widely translated. His short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines and collections, including Best Australian Stories, Best Australian Fantasy and Horror and The Penguin Century of Australian Stories, and has been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards for Best Science Fiction Short Story and Best Horror Short Story.

As well as writing fiction and poetry, James writes and reviews for a wide range of Australian and international newspapers and magazines. In 2012 he won the Pascall Prize for Australia's Critic of the year.

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5 stars
127 (20%)
4 stars
247 (39%)
3 stars
196 (31%)
2 stars
45 (7%)
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6 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 122 reviews
Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,574 reviews124 followers
May 13, 2021
This was a good speculative fiction style novel which I enjoyed, have been thinking about a fair bit since I finished it, yet I was not blown away by. I feel that my inability to enthuse about it as much as other reviewers have comes, to a large extent from disappointed expectations.

It is not a bad book, it is very nicely written and will be perfect for people who are not heavily into sci-fi, also those who like a social element to their novels and have an interest in climate change. The climate change commentary, in particular, was very subtly handled.

Kate Larkin and her husband Jay are summoned to discuss coming on board a biological research project with the Foundation. The Foundation is the personal project, and developed by of a very young magnate who made his fortune from apps/social media/electronica - maybe think Mark Zuckerberg meets Bill Gates fortune... Kate and Jay as leading scientists in their field are being asked to head a long term genetic(?) project to reinstate extinct species, most notably, Neanderthals. None of this is spoilers, it is on the back of the book which describes the story as being set against the backdrop of climate change.

The good things; I loved the concept and while I disagree with the reviewer who called it 'thrillingly original' (as this is a theme I have read often) I do like that it is very much modernised, set in the here and now of Tasmania and, yes, Tassie tigers are mentioned early on! The writing was excellent, the plot was well plotted out (sorry, could not resist) and well executed. It was a slow burn of a novel. Maybe, for me, a bit too slow.

The novel is in sections, the first one foreshadows, quite heavily, the first part of the novel so there is not really any huge element of surprise in the early plot. You follow the development of the project, the birth of the child, she bonds with Kate, grows to adolescence an outlier Neanderthal who cannot fit in and then, at the end climate change accelerates and the world changes. The ending is really pretty good.

Like I said, this is a novel that should satisfy a lot of younger sci-fi readers and a lot of people who do not normally read sci-fi. All the good things are why it is three stars.

There were a lot of things I was really impatient with about this book however, things that I felt were lacking. Most are very personal because I am actually a scientist, they will likely not even be noticed by many other readers. Some things I found deeply, deeply annoying. Enough so that it probably was a two star read for most of the experience (though the good ending, and lead up to the ending redeemed it) and ALL of those things are spoilers. Read it at your own peril if you have not yet read this book, which you will probably enjoy much more than I did.

So, yes, an exceptionally well written book that I did not love because there was no science, which I had expected there to be. Because there was too much baby stuff, which I had not expected and am just not that interested in. Since I had to read through over half the book before getting to the climate change theme, I was irate - though it was well done when you finally got there. The social commentary about dealing with people who are different in any way and the problems facing them? That was good. I can't rave about it as a science fiction book, because there was virtually no science, but as a soft, speculative fiction it was well done, within it's own methodology.
Profile Image for Rob Cook.
26 reviews3 followers
January 5, 2020
James Bradley’s new novel begins on the leading edge of now and ends in a future so terrifyingly near we can see its smoke on the horizon. Set principally in remote Tasmania, Ghost Species begins like a hybrid of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, Sarah Hall’s The Wolf Border, and Greg Egan’s Darwin’s Radio, combining the forward momentum of the science fictional technothriller with the reflective inwardness of the literary novel. But Ghost Species is also very much its own thing, a politically urgent and emotionally resonant examination of scientific, corporate, and personal ethics in a collapsing world. As such, it is informed as much by Bradley’s recent non-fiction work on the climate emergency as by the narrative intricacies of his previous novels.

Like his most recent novel Clade, Ghost Species is divided into titled sections, each taking place several years on from the preceding section, so that the novel unfolds over about 20 years. The cast of characters is smaller and more intimate than Clade’s multi-generational epic: Kate and Jay are scientists and sometime lovers, Davis is their enigmatic Zuckerbergian boss, and Eve is their bio-engineered daughter, the first Neanderthal to walk the planet in some 40,000 years. She is the main, but by no means the only, ‘ghost species’ of the title, one of many attempted de-extinctions intended to combat the ravages of a climate-altered Earth by jump-starting ancient ecosystems. It’s a global scale retconning that, like climate change itself, refuses to unfold as the models predict.

All this, though, is background, and so deftly, cleverly woven into the main narrative - like the smoke always on the horizon - that it quickly settles in as a bedrock of unease and increasing off-stage tension that you register without realising as you follow the emotional journeys of Kate and Eve through the years, as they deal variously with family, growing up, loving, living, and dying. It’s only as those background tensions dovetail with Eve’s story in the last few sections that you come to see the bigger picture that Bradley has been quietly but urgently painting, and suddenly you’re standing on the edge of a void.

In that sense, Ghost Species is a novel that is fundamentally of its moment. The slow, slow creep of rising tension that torques up in the last couple of sections is almost unbearably physical, and absolutely terrifying - which is to say, it’s exactly how many people feel about the climate emergency as it’s unfolding right now, in Australia and elsewhere. It’s all the stuff that petrifies me nightly about the world my sons and my daughter are growing up into, all of it made viscerally, horribly real by imagining it on paper.

And that’s the thing, I think, the engine that makes Ghost Species work so well - like 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow, it’s disaster fiction, but unlike those escapisms it is entirely bereft of the comfort that it’s fiction: rather, it is global disaster rooted in the reality of lived lives. Eve is simultaneously alien and human, other and us: emotionally resonant for all her animal strangeness. And as in Clade, the disaster unfolds at a distance, quietly but unstoppably in the background, until suddenly it’s right there in your face: the inescapable hyperobject, manifested in global collapse and mob violence, but also in individual, all too human loyalties and betrayals.

Ghost Species is an excellent, urgent, uncomfortable, and complex novel, for all that it’s written in spare, precise, and limpid prose. It is implacable in its implications, and yet tentative in its hope, for our own and for all the species that are still left on this burning world.

[Full disclosure: I had the privilege of reading a proof copy of Ghost Species four months ahead of publication (it’s due out end of April 2020 - go pre-order it right now!). As such, there were typos, repeated lines, etc, the usual formatting issues you’d expect in a manuscript at that stage. While I registered them at some deep grammar-nerd intellectual level, it was impossible to stop reading. ‘Unputdownable’ is a cliché, I know, but that’s how good this book is.]
Profile Image for L.G. Cullens.
Author 2 books73 followers
December 12, 2020
This book is a well written, realistically imaginative, insightful, and disconcertingly prophetic. A book all that care about their and their children's future should read.
June 21, 2020

Ghost Species by James Bradley. (2020).

Scientist Kate joins a secretive project to re-engineer the climate by resurrecting extinct species, including the Neanderthals. But when the first of the children is born, Kate is torn between science and wanting to protect little Eve. As Eve grows to adulthood she and Kate must face the question of who and what she is. Is Eve natural or artificial? Human or non-human? And as civilisation unravels around them during climate catastrophe, is Eve the ghost species or are we?

I appreciated the concept of this book and I thought the synopsis was quite intriguing. However...the book just wasn't as interesting as what I thought it would be. I mean, bringing back extinct species to help reduce climate catastrophe effects? Sounds fascinating! But I'm not sure, it just didn't hit the spot for me. I didn't dislike it, but I also didn't love it. I did think the climate changes and world collapsing was very scarily believable. The book is in sections that jump in time so we start off pre-Eve and end when she is approximately 20 (I think). I enjoyed the first half more than the second; I felt like as Eve got older, the story lost its thread a bit.
Overall: I liked this book well enough, but it wasn't great for me. There are not too many reviews on Goodreads at the time of writing this review but most are extremely positive so it's definitely worth a read if it sounds like your kind of book.
Profile Image for Lauren James.
Author 16 books1,418 followers
July 28, 2021
A creative and stirring take on the climate crisis, with a focus on motherhood and the children who are going to inherit a planet ravaged by climate change. I loved the high concept 'geoengineering' ideas used here, such as resurrecting extinct predators to change the natural world. A fascinating read with lots to think about - and some amazingly complex and real characters.
Profile Image for Bram.
Author 6 books143 followers
May 4, 2020
Some writers are just a class above. With Ghost Species, Bradley proves himself once again to be one of them. An astounding masterwork of speculative fiction - entirely plausible, utterly compelling and, as it progresses, eerily prophetic - Ghost Species absolutely floored me. Just read it.
Profile Image for Sally Piper.
Author 4 books51 followers
May 31, 2020
With a frighteningly possible near-future premise, this timely novel is an ode to the natural world as well as a cautionary tale of the consequences of climate change and humanity's response to it. A unique, wholly believable and imaginative story.
Profile Image for Dean Osborne.
29 reviews7 followers
November 9, 2020
Okay, so Ghost Species is a great example of why I changed my rating system a few months back. If I give a book a five star rating because at the time it’s a five star book but then what happens when I read a book that is much better than that five star book?? I can’t give it a six star rating, can I? Or… maybe I have been too generous with my ratings in the past. Well this is exactly what happened when I read Ghost Species. Ghost Species is a fantastic read and I will be giving it a ‘Book Vagabond Top Pick’ banner.

Ghost Species sounded great when I read the synopsis and I knew I had to read it ASAP. It is science fiction that tackles climate change and the moral responsibilities that we play as guardians of this planet but what I wasn’t ready for was just how much Ghost Species would challenge, change and reinforce my opinions regarding climate change and just how my actions as a human can affect the environment around me. As you know I enjoy when I get the opportunity to learn while I read and James Bradley fills the book with information about long lost species and habitats that once populate the Earth and I took the chance to further dig into the information provided with my own research.

I can’t stress just how much character development there is within the pages of this read. Specifically that of Kate and Eve, our main characters. We get to see the relationship between the two grow and just how much they change within the book is mind boggling. Now, as a parent I was able to easily connect to Kate and understand Kate’s actions and I soon become much attached to Kate and Eve. I became so attached that I often felt my eyes welling up and the strings of my heart being tugged. Ghost Species is a rollercoaster of emotions so be warned.

Ghost Species wasn’t the usual science fiction that I read. I am far more familiar to futuristic deep space epics and those that are set off Earth. Ghost Species however is set on Earth and what could be assumed the present day. If I remember rightly there is no mention of dates but forgive me if I’m wrong. In fact Ghost Species felt more like a dramatized documentary that reads like a science fiction novel looking into the efforts and the lives of those tackling the current climate issues we face today.

I’m going to close this review up by saying that Ghost Species by James Bradley is a must read and a Book Vagabond Top Pick. I’m not going to do the normal recommendations as I usually would because I feel that everyone can enjoy this read and that if more people did read it then maybe this world be a much happier place to live.

It could be a while till a find another book that changes and entertains me in the way Ghost Species has.
Profile Image for Michael Livingston.
795 reviews242 followers
May 18, 2020
This is packed with big ideas (climate collapse! tech saviours! shady science! (de-)extinctiom!) and is elegantly written. The characters have surprising depth given how much ground the book covers and the whole situation feels horrifyingly plausible. It's a striking contrast with Fauna, which starts with the same central idea but never really clicked into gear for me. Ghost Species though felt so timely and important - Bradley writes about climate with such awful knowledge and assurance.
Profile Image for Kim.
789 reviews84 followers
November 27, 2020
An intelligent story of a teenage Neanderthal in her own words, however improbably, yep this works as that.
One that confronts climate change and playing with the gene pool in a Tassie wilderness.
One to make you think and perhaps not as Sci-Fi or out of reach as one might expect.
Profile Image for Sammy Mylan.
97 reviews1 follower
March 11, 2022
i liked this SO much better than Clade, but unfortunately has the same major flaw of Can’t Write Women
Profile Image for Cass Moriarty.
Author 2 books165 followers
July 24, 2020
James Bradley is a thoughtful, scientific thinker who writes his fears about what is happening in the world around us into careful narratives that are prescient and believable. In his latest novel Ghost Species (Hamish Hamilton Penguin 2020), he presents a subtly terrifying world that changes from one relatively familiar in the first chapters (set perhaps not too far in the future) into a world that gradually deviates from ‘normality’ in every sense, as chaos and disorder disrupt society. But while this world-building is the basis for this story, at its heart is the compelling tale of two women, and their intertwined and ever-changing fates as their world shifts around them.
From the opening pages of this book – from the opening sentences – you know you are in the hands of a master storyteller. Bradley immediately plunges us into a highly literary novel of lush, beautiful words and haunting and lovely phrases, but this is also a very accessible and engaging story that will capture your heart from the start and refuse to let go until the end. I could not put this book down. It is a triumph – a celebration of the natural world, a song of sorrow to what is lost, a hopeful cry towards what might be possible, and a meditation on humanity and how we fit together (or don’t) with our environment.
Imagine a kind of literary Jurassic Park. Scientist Kate Larkin and her partner Jay are invited to join a clandestine project operated by a global corporation with seemingly infinite resources and connections. The aim? To re-engineer the climate and to resurrect extinct species, not just animals relatively recently lost, such as the thylacine, but those lost for centuries, such as woolly mammoths. But this is merely the tip of the increasingly melting iceberg: the even more secret part of the project is to recreate Neanderthals, humans’ long-lost relatives, by using DNA extracted from teeth and bones unearthed by the rapidly thawing planet.
Kate has past trauma of her own related to her notion of family and motherhood. And when the team successfully creates a creature that is not like any other living thing, her instinct takes over, she bonds with the child, Eve, and realises that she must make difficult choices between her professional responsibilities and her human emotions.
As the narrative continues across two decades, and the world’s decline becomes more and more apparent, unavoidable and unsustainable, Kate and Eve must learn to survive amidst mounting obstacles including climate change, capitalism and corporate greed, ambition, prejudice and judgment.
This book questions the very heart of what it is to be human and how we are connected to the natural world. It explores grief and loss, both of emotional connections and of the interconnected landscape which surrounds us. As the planet faces global trauma, so too do the characters face personal trauma. Kate – and Eve, as she grows into adulthood – must contemplate the questions surrounding Eve’s existence; about who and what she is. Do Eve and the other extinct creatures make up the ghost species? Or is it us, modern humans, who are a pale and ethereal copy of what came before?
Readers who enjoyed the scientific imagination of Melissa Ferguson’s The Shining Wall will find much that resonates in this novel.
Ghost Species is an ethical quandary, a scientific exploration, a timely warning, a love song to the natural world, a deeply original story that features unforgettable characters who will move you, thrill you, endear you to them, and compel you to care about what happens to them. It will make you consider the choices we have made, and those we have left to make. Do we have the right to alter the landscape? The fauna? Ourselves? What if it is done in order to enhance our environment? But then what if something goes wrong, or events take an unexpected turn? How does our responsibility change? Teetering on the edge of catastrophe, this novel sweeps us away into a morally ambiguous maelstrom, from which we might never recover. And always, underneath, is that universal yearning for connection.
Profile Image for Leigh.
246 reviews21 followers
October 19, 2020
When scientists Kate and Jay are summoned to Tasmania by an unknown person to discuss a mysterious project, they decide that the trip is worth it just for a change of scenery on somebody else’s expense account. The last thing they expect is to be asked to head a secretive and ethically questionable rewilding project, a project which may be the only thing standing between the world and total climate collapse.

Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg-alike Davis Hucken has found the key to de-extinction, and wants to restore whole ecosystems, starting with pre-historic megafauna to slow or even stop the loss of permafrost, snow, and ice in the Arctic. He has teams working on the animals, but he wants Kate and Jay for something further – he wants to de-extinct Neanderthal man. Despite Kate’s reservations, the couple agree to work on the project, but has anybody really thought through the ethical morass of recreating another species of man? When the first baby, Eve, is born, who and what is she?

Genre-wise, this is difficult to pin down. Peri-apocalyptic cli-fi, definitely, but also sci-fi, speculative fiction, and even literary fiction.

The premise of Ghost Species is excellent, but I’m a little disappointed by the direction in which it went. For me, the book concentrated too much on Kate. In parts it became quite boring and pedestrian, which is quite the achievement when you consider the subject matter.

There are obvious parallels to Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, but the de-extinction process is more scientifically sound than extracting DNA from blood-sucking mosquitoes stuck in amber. The permafrost is melting, releasing stored carbon dioxide and potentially problematic bacteria and viruses, but it’s also giving up animal remains that contain soft tissue and even liquid blood. The theory of driving ecosystem change through reintroduction of certain animals is sound, too. The example given of the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction causing a trophic cascade is factual and is well worth finding out more if you’ve not come across it before.

Personally, I would have preferred more of a spotlight on the science side, and the public and legal reaction to the experiment. Is Eve human? What rights does she have? Does the fact that she was produced in an experiment mean that she is the property of the foundation? I also would have liked more on the public reaction and environmental reaction to release of megafauna.

Ghost Species is currently available in e-book form, but a paperback version is being released in January 2021.

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Antigoni.
30 reviews
November 16, 2022
although i had to read this for a class i reallyyyy enjoyed it… it is so well written i am in love
Profile Image for Jessi.
462 reviews63 followers
March 7, 2022
I picked up this book because of the cover. Creepy ghostly forest? Yes please! But this is not about a haunted forest or even ghosts at all.

The Earth is in serious climate crisis, things get worse every year a tech billionaire has contacted 2 scientists, couple Kate and Jay about a huge secret project he is working on/funding. The billionaire's theory is that to fix the current state of things we have to bring back extinct fauna from like mammoths, sabretooth tigers, thylacines and Neanderthals. Neanderthals are the reason Kate and Jay are here and will be in charge of that particular project.
Crazy non? This was definitely more science fiction then thriller, like Jurassic Park but for a less capitalistic reason

but I totally enjoyed it, I loved the characters and wept for their losses and cheered for their happiness, which what more can you ask for? Also quick read
12 reviews
March 12, 2021
I could not finish this book despite the promise of its setting and themes. The limited character development, pointless detail, and oddly paced narrative all combine to create a rather dull, albeit still coherent, novel. For example, the opening part delivers more detail about a building than the main characters and their motivations. In other words, why should the reader care about the characters and the plot? Lastly, this book is a good example of why you should 'show' and not 'tell'. Plot and character developments are unfortunately delivered in paragraphs of exposition, which doesn't engage the imagination.
Profile Image for Amy Heap.
993 reviews26 followers
August 20, 2020
Four and a half stars for this stark, beautiful, and all too plausible work of climate fiction. Set in remote Tasmania, in the near future, scientists are brought together to resurrect long extinct species. Kate Larkin works on bringing the Neanderthals back to life, but when Eve is born, she finds herself questioning the project. It’s about humanity, trauma, connection, loss, fear for the future, and a glimmer of hope. Though it feels very real, it has a haunting, dream-like feel, and though I finished it some days ago, it is staying with me.
Profile Image for Danielle Clode.
Author 17 books56 followers
May 2, 2020
A harrowing and evocative tale of finding your place in a disintegrating world. What is it that makes us human - and is being human necessarily a good thing? A delicate and precise exploration of motherhood, loneliness and love in a soon-to-be posthuman world from one of our finest writers of climate change fiction.
511 reviews2 followers
September 27, 2020
This was fantastic. It was an interesting premise which I thought would be tricky to pull off but the author did it with skill. Fascinating premise and beautifully executed. 5 stars.
Profile Image for Figgy.
678 reviews218 followers
April 26, 2020

In the meantime... Bradley has done it again, delivering a novel of rather epic cli-fi scope in under 300 pages.

This didn't go where I was necessarily expecting, but examined the impact human kind is having on the planet and how our attempts to help often make things worse, but more in the way that this was a backdrop for Eve's life, which we witnessed in fairly brief (but focused and detailed) snapshots as she grew.

I don't know what I'll be rating it yet, but it was eerie at times to watch a proper disaster unfold and see how people were buying things out (not toilet paper, as far as I know, but prescriptions for sure) in a way that very accurately reflects how our world has been lately, amid Covid lockdown.
Profile Image for Leanne.
34 reviews
October 16, 2020
Interesting book that delves into collapse of the world and our society due to climate change. This is the main theme, however it also examines the absolute power that men with enormous wealth do wield and how their dreams seem important to the world but are more about their need to be deified
Profile Image for Erin.
666 reviews7 followers
August 23, 2020
“We are, after all, programmed to recognise our own kind, and, conversely, to know when somebody or something is not one of us.”

This book was recommended to me by a friend, and upon reading the premise, I thought it had a really cool concept - save the world and re-engineer the climate by re-creating extinct species, including Neanderthals. However, there was something about this book that just didn’t grab me.

For a book with less than 300 pages, there was a crap tonne of stuff that happens. The timeline spans around 20 years, and what begins as scientific hypothesis into de-extinction, moves into an ethical discussion into ‘well yes it’s scientifically possible, but should we’, then devolves into a scarily plausible dystopian nightmare.
It’s a lot to take in, but my favourite parts were the bond between Kate and child-aged Eve. And the comparisons between her development and those of homo sapient children. Plus the unmentioned but ever present ‘nature vs nurture’ argument was fascinating to watch unfold.

Secondly, while the story was enjoyable, and despite its many moving parts and unmarked shifts into past and present, I found it difficult to fully engage with the writing style, and found myself unable to stay focused on the narrative for sustained periods of reading time.

In saying that though, I did like it, I just didn’t love it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Chris.
211 reviews
July 4, 2020
It must be hard for a writer or editor to determine the correct length a book should be to tell its story, be understood, maintain the continuity and hold the attention of a reader. There were some aspects of this work by James Bradley that felt perfect, and others (very few) that just missed that mark; lengthy time jumps were a devise often used to gloss over these flaws, especially towards the end.
Part of a view of the global near future that has spawned its own genre title (Cli-Fi), this work pre-supposes significant familiarity with contemporary science and technology.
The major theme appeared to be the eternal war of nature vs. nurture in the expression of human behaviour and the outsider experience that is an existential consequence for many. The interesting plot use of a totally different stream of humanity to explore these was an insightful genius.
Profile Image for Darcy.
51 reviews18 followers
April 30, 2020
A good read; as with Clade I wanted more. It felt like both novels were successfully on their way to something else but just end too soon. I wanted to know more about Eve’s (and our) futures. The novel should appeal to a wide audience.
Profile Image for Claire Holroyde.
Author 2 books129 followers
March 27, 2022
I have been fascinated with Neanderthals ever since I grasped that they were an entirely separate species of human. The one-and-a-half to two percent of Neanderthal DNA in my makeup proves that there was some interbreeding in humanity’s early days, but only one species survived to write history. Did our Homo sapien ancestors kill or outcompete Neanderthals to extinction?

Neanderthals had medicine, cared for their sick, and collected seashells from beaches; they had empathy and appreciated beauty. They are even thought to be the kinder species. Put in the terms of our more distant cousins, the great apes, they are the gentle and nurturing orangutan to the sapient’s violent and cunning chimpanzee.

My speculative science fiction brain always imagined that a Neanderthal clone would be the modern Frankenstein tale of our time: bringing back another species of human from the Ice Age just when our glaciers were melting. Ghost Species by Australian writer James Bradley is that very tale and it exceeds my imagination in the best of ways.

Set in the near future, with staggering technological advances and environmental decline, geneticist Kate Larkin arrives on the island state of Tasmania with her husband Jay. They reach a secluded compound and meet Davis Hucken, tech billionaire and founder of the latest social network Gather. Davis is privately funding several secret experiments to resurrect extinct species and re-wild them. Despite major misgivings, Kate agrees to lead a team with Jay to create a Neanderthal clone and implant it in a human surrogate. The ambitious scientist that successfully completes the clone’s genome sequence is the same woman that develops a sense of responsibility for the Neanderthal newborn Eve—and steals her to run away. After I finished this beautiful and important book, I went back to read Kate’s thoughts in the prologue:

“But when they are here, isolated by the power or the wind, it is not time’s flight that frightens her; instead it is the knowledge that the child is alone, and that one day she will understand that. And so she does what mothers have done since the beginning of time, since before we were human: she draws filaments from the darkness and weaves them together to create meaning, purpose, shape, arranging the elements to reveal the world, or perhaps to make a new one.”

Ghost Species was longlisted for the BSFA Best Novel Award, and was nominated for the Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.
2,253 reviews
March 30, 2021
Kate is involved in the creation of a Neanderthal child (Eve) in a lab and comes to love her.

3.5 stars The ideas in this book were intriguing, the science was near non-existent, and the social side was good. I haven't read James Bradley previously - he seems very competent but a little on the lean side; this is a case where fifty more pages might have added to the effect of the book. I had the impression that he was more hard SF like Peter Watts but that didn't seem the case here.

I'm not a fan of the 'woman sacrifices everything for child' theme so this might have a bigger impact on some readers. I wanted to see how the world would react to a Neanderthal in today's society and for the most part that wasn't touched on. I wobbled between a 3.5 or 4 stars and am planning on reading Bradley's 'Clade'.
Profile Image for Malvina.
1,335 reviews9 followers
December 1, 2020
Speculative fiction with an escalating global climate catastrophe. But that isn't the main story, it's all about Eve, a created experimental Neanderthal child who grows to a young adult throughout the book. Fascinating, I loved it. All the possibilities and the what ifs, and what is it that makes you human after all?
Profile Image for SofiaTorn.
186 reviews15 followers
March 8, 2021
I enjoyed Ghost Species and give it a 3.5.

I liked that the last chapters shifted POV and.. uh... Well there isn’t much more to say really. The science was science-ish and the scientists scientist-ish, but I never expected anything else. And I always love environmental/climate/nature themes, though the plot reminded me of other books I’ve read.

A decent read. 🤷🏻‍♀️
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