I am only half way through The Curiosity, by Stephen P. Kiernan, so perhaps it is premature to be writing a book review. However, having not completed the end of the book ensures that I will not inadvertently drop any serious spoilers into this review. I also am so enjoying this book that I have slowed in my reading so as not to finish and be done because it plays to all the elements that I find make for a fantastic story.
The novel opens with a voyage through the perils of the natural world with an expedition in the arctic, later switching gears to the juxtapose the dangers of said expedition with the rigid hierarchy of the lead researcher’s experience at an academic conference as his field team reports their unexpected find. The book holds a little something for everyone: science fiction, adventure, questions about what it means to be alive, issues surrounding death and what happens when you die, justice, a version of time travel and of course, a bit of romance. The story plays on the theme of “curiosity” as a strong driving force in human nature which affects us all in many ways, both for good and bad.
The story is told in chapters, each from the point of view of various characters – a device perhaps borrowed from The Sound and The Fury, but used effectively here to keep the reader in the dark about the truth of any of the story. Typically novels told from only one point of view lead the reader along the path of the story, creating confidence that because there is a single narrative therefore it must be the true narrative. Kiernan, however, carefully tosses the plot from one character’s inner-dialogue to another, always moving forward but causing conflict as to the veracity of any of the claims made by the characters. And this is what the true experience of being human in society feels like. Everyone has their own motivations, their own point of view, their own biases and hopes that color they way they experience and react to the world. Kiernan fully understands this, and uses it to spur the reader on as they wish to know not only what happens to the characters in the end, but also understand which, if any, of the characters came the closest to discovering the truth. Or, perhaps the book will show in the end that the truth, as it does so many times in life, lies somewhere in between the personal versions of everyone involved.
Read it just as a quick adventure novel, or a study on human nature, but just read it!