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Hybrids: David Thorpe: Harper Collins Childrens Books

hybrids david thorpebenedict campbell book cover imageHybrids: David Thorpe

A brand new voice in children’s literature offers an eerie contemporary tale on the fusion of man and machine. Hybrids was the winning entry in HarperCollins Nationwide search for an author competition with Saga Magazine, beating 882 other manuscripts to first place.

Johnny Online and Kestrella are hybrids - victims of Creep, a pandemic sweeping the country which causes suffers to merge with items of technology when over-exposed to their use. Kestrella persuades a wary Johnny to help her find her missing mother, but the sinister Gene Police have other plans for him.

The story is narrated alternately by Johnny and Kes, which is an interesting technique and works well, as it shows the same situation from both persons point of view. Meaning you can see the difference in their thoughts, especially how each sees the other. Hybrids questions our human dependence on technology, and our reactions in the face of nationwide panic. Based in a world which is current, but not quiet; which is real, but only just; which is horribly close to our fears of what is happening and may happen in the future.

A virus, Creep, has swept Britain, causing the merging of technology with people; bass guitars(!), monitors and computer innards, mobile phones, it’s all there. The people infected as deemed dirty and dangerous by the non-infected, and as such are rounded up and kept seperate. Those on the run feel isolated and live on the edge, mostly banding together to survive.

The writing is at a steady pace and as a children’s book, will easily be followed. There’s no ‘over your head technology’ to content with, it’s really just people who are different to ‘the norm’. I feel this is a nice introduction to cyberpunk. It has messages too, loving someone, not for their physical appearance, but for their ‘internal beauty’; public panic at the unknown; dependency on technology. The depenency on technology is, while reading, the message which struck me most.

Today we can switch off a computer, turn off a mobile phone or those irritating Blackberrys (if I see another person with a mobile phone in one hand, and a Blackberry in the other, switching between the two incessently…), but what if we couldn’t, what if they had to be on because we couldn’t turn them off, because they’re a part of ourselves?

I’m dissappointed, yet again, that the main crux of the story isn’t really explained. Creep is kind of skipped over as a virus which causes man and machine to meld. I guess the characters are maybe too busy getting on with their lives and surviving to bother with the history, but it seems to me its a bit of a cop out. Although, in all fairness, there could quite easily be a followup in which it is explained in more detail. As a side note, in thinking back over Hybrids, it occurred to me that there is no definition of ‘technology’ - all the mentioned hybridizations are with electronic technology - there’s no merging of, say, reading glasses or saucepans, surely these are technology too.

Ironically, David dictated the book using voice recognition software. Mild childhood cerebral palsy has progressed into painful carpel tunnel syndrome which makes extensive typing almost impossible. The author is forced to use technology as a tool, much like the characters in his book are forced to be part of their technology. This, I am contemplating, could be where the book’s idea first seeded from.

An enjoyable debut novel, a good introduction to SF which leans towards younger readers who haven’t read the genre in anger, if at all.

Notes On The Author:
David Thorpe lives in the mountains not far from the beaches of beautiful mid-Wales. He spends his time wondering. When he was smaller he noticed that most adults seemed to have forgotten what it was like to be a child and vowed to try not do the same himself. Previously he has worked on the sewers, written comics, published eco-books and been a journalist. If you want to make him happy you can help to save the tiger from extinction.

David’s sons, who conveniently feill into the intended age group for Hybrids while it was being written, helped their dad with editing the book - they took sections to school to see how their friends responded to it and were instantly the hub of the playground. Insistent request of “turn the page!” suggested that David was on to a winner from the start.

6 Comments For This Post

  1. Smiffy Says:

    I think you should write an unofficial sequel - I want to read about those saucepan hybrids!

  2. David Thorpe Says:

    Thanks for the nice review. You’re right. The cause of Creep will be explored in future sequels. I wanted the idea to work as a metaphor first rather than get too bogged down in ‘explanations’.

    Yes, the technology has to be electronic or electrical as it utilises the body’s own electrical energy.

    And, I think the saucepan hybrid might have been covered already - Stan Lee’s Forbush-Man spoof in Echh! magazine - anyone remember that?

  3. C.j Says:

    I liked the book alot have u started writing a sequel for it yet?

  4. Alfie Ludlow Says:

    I personally think that there should be an oficial sequel. The first is a great book however I didn’t like the ending as it isn’t explained properly. There could be another paragraph or so to add in about this. But overall it is a great book.

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1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. University Update - Cerebral Palsy - Hybrids: David Thorpe: Harper Collins Childrens Books Says:

    [...] West Nile Virus Contact the Webmaster Link to Article cerebral palsy Hybrids: David Thorpe: Harper Collins Childrens Books » Posted at SciFi UK Review on Sunday, August 12, 2007 This article contains copywritten material. Please click on the "View Original Article" link below to view the article on the author’s site. View Original Article » [...]

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