16-year-old, small-town American schoolboy Nick Brynner is your typical “boy” character. He’s not particularly popular, he’s not particularly athletic and he’s got a crush on some girl who is “unobtainable as car, college, Xbox, or popularity”.
You can tell that I’m not particularly interested in this type of protagonist, because I’ve read about a million of them. It’s not Dietrich’s fault – it’s unlikely that he knows what kind of protagonists I’m bored of – but the book market is full of books about straight white guys and frankly, it’s getting a little old.
Still, I soldiered through The Murder of Adam and Eve, and was not completely disappointed.
One day, our typical-average-teenage-white-boy Nick decides to explore a mysterious island that is off limits to the general public, as part of a solo history project. He gets sucked up by aliens and ends up having to go back in time in Africa with a girl, Eleanor Terrell, to the dawn of the human race – the biological Adam and Eve that gave birth to the rest of the human race. The alien race, the Xu, want to kill Adam and Eve and “reset” the course of the Earth, while it’s up to Nick and Eleanor to stop them and prove the human race worthy. Along the way, there’s a lot of contemplation about humanity and environmentalism and innovation, as well as a great deal of survivalism and hunting.
The premise is certainly intriguing – clearly a lot of research went into the book’s depiction of pre-humanity Africa. There are some interesting philosophical points raised too. And it’s nice that Dietrich at least threw a girl into the equation so it wasn’t just some white kid wandering around Africa trying to hunt. But the problem with this book is the supremely annoying narrator, Nick.
He has lines like this: “She treated me like a brother. I could never forget she was a girl.” Cheers kid, it’s good to know that you consider girls to basically be a species unto themselves, and that there’s no way you can think of a girl as a friend, just as someone you want to bang.
And he has this weird preoccupation with calling her “girl”. Like, “You’re so serious, girl.” It’s like he’s a pick up artist in a bar hitting on some random chick in a bar, not talking to someone he’s travelled with for several weeks.
(This is all ignoring the point that the whole point of the Xu’s choosing Nick is that he’s the “average” of the human race – when if you want to get your head out of your America-centric ass, the “average” human is a Chinese man.)
There’s a point where you just have to say no to another book about some average, white, straight teenage boy who is pining after a girl. I’m not sure whether I should have said ‘no’ before or after this book. While the point of view was really grating and irritating to me, I have to admit that if you can get past it, or it doesn’t bother you, the book does present an intriguing philosophical conundrum with some great prose.