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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > April 2018 > Theory and practice

Theory and practice

Audrey Schulman’s new novel is described as almost dystopian, but fails at the nuances of world-building

FICTION

Theory of Bastards

Audrey Schulman

Europa Editions

DESCRIBED BY ITS publisher as a literary novel that is not quite dystopian, Audrey Schulman’s Theory of Bastards offers readers an interesting premise with potential that is never fully realized.

The novel follows scientist Francine “Frankie” Burk, a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur grant, who has been seconded to a mysterious scientific enclave known as the Foundation. The wheelchair-bound Frankie, who is recovering from an operation for endometriosis, is studying bonobos, one of the many groups of primates present at the Foundation. The focus of Frankie’s research involves finding a proof for her reproductive theory – the so-called theory of bastards, which posits that “extramarital” children go farther in life than their half-siblings. As Frankie observes the bonobos, an approaching dust storm threatens the Foundation. Instead of fleeing, Frankie and Stott, an assistant researcher, decide to stay with the animals.

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