CM . . . . Volume XX Number 3 . . . . September 20, 2013
Destination Human is told from the perspective of Welkin. Welkin is a Universal, that is, a superior thinking being without a body. As such, he/she can move easily from one dimension to another. In order to pass a Bioethics course, Welkin must conduct a study of primitive life by going back in time and invading the body of a juvenile human. Unfortunately, when Professor Float explains the process that must be followed, Welkin is not paying enough attention. He/she has three days to complete the Bioethics assignment and leave the human's body, knowing that "all bodies occupied by Universals die when [they] depart." After wishing him/herself back in time, Welkin follows a primitive Chloe home from high school. Then, something goes wrong when Welkin invades her body. Not only is he/she unable to read Chloe's mind, but she can read his/hers. Over three days, Welkin experiences the pleasures and demands of the human body. He/she also learns that 'primitives' are able to do and feel marvelous things, such as running with the wind and eating chocolate. Welkin's new insights make it difficult for him/her to leave Chloe when the Bioethics assignment is completed. Professor Float must get involved meaning another possible course failure for Welkin and the death not only of Chloe, but the boy on whom she has a crush.
Destination Human touches on a number of issues, including evolution in general, our dependence on technology, and prejudice. Analogies may be drawn between Welkin's prejudices as a Universal towards "primitives" and the hubris and ignorance too often found amongst some in North American society today. Welkin's observations may also make readers pause to consider things usually taken for granted, such as the following: our ability to make thought and memory physical through creating art; the feeling people dancing or doing a sport can experience when their minds and bodies become "a marvelous unit in perfect harmony;" and how "thoughts pale when the body is in action."
Author K.L. Denman weaves engaging humour into this thought-provoking and fast-paced story. While the dialogue could have benefitted from a bit more editing, Destination Human is a fun and enlightening novel another winner in the "Orca Currents" collection.
Karen Rankin is a Toronto teacher and writer of children's stories.
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