THE PHILOSOPHER’S APPRENTICE by James Morrow

THE PHILOSOPHER’S APPRENTICE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Arch-satirist Morrow (The Last Witchfinder, 2006, etc.) turns in a tumultuous take on humanity, philosophy and ethics that is as hilarious as it is outlandish.

The narrator and central figure of this classically inspired comedy about twisted science and bent beliefs is long-winded, self-centered philosophy student Mason Ambrose. To his dismay, Mason is at wit’s end after his life’s work, Ethics from the Earth, is torpedoed by an embittered rival. Offered a teaching position on an offshore island that would do Dr. Moreau proud, the good doctor is soon verbally jousting with his student, a damaged but headstrong savant named Londa, to whom he is supposed to impart no less than a functioning conscience. Though ferociously stubborn, Londa responds with verve when Mason presents her with manufactured philosophical conundrums. It turns out that the island’s matriarch (and Londa’s mother), geneticist Edwina Sabachthani, has been dabbling in genetics testing, producing breathing trees, a talking mutant iguana and other freaks of nature to be named later. To their peril, Mason and his fellow tutors agree to keep the secret of Londa and her aberrant siblings following Edwina’s early demise from a blood disorder. After escaping, Ambrose tries to settle into domesticity with a striking young English student but is completely unraveled by the abrupt appearance of a man calling himself John Snow—and calling Mason “father.” Meanwhile, Londa has abandoned science to become something of a celebrity à la Oprah, but on a grander scale and with a darker, gospel-inspired vision of a new golden age for humanity. Hurtling towards his destiny aboard a resurrected Titanic, Mason must choose between consummation and annihilation of his first love. “Try withholding your judgment till you’ve grasped the broader picture,” Londa advises him. A salutary caution for readers of this wildly ambitious morality play, a shrewd amalgamation of the sacred and the profane.

Tips its hat with style to Mary Shelley and George Bernard Shaw.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-135144-0
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2008




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