Customer Review

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Read, 22 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Racists (Paperback)
No, not a reference to our use of the term; instead the title relates to the scientific undertakings prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries of such eugenicists, craniologists, and so forth.

This story starts in 1855, and involves an argument between two well-known scientists. One is an aging, foul-tempered Englishman, Dr Samuel Bates, the world's senior authority on craniology (the study of skulls) and advocate that all races are different, the white being the superior. His nemesis is a young French hypochondriac, Jean-Louis Belavoix, who maintains that races cannot coexist. At some point, they strongest must murder the weakest, but there is no way of saying that one particular race happens to be the best.

The two decide to conduct a 12-year experiment. They house two babies (one black, the other white) on an island (Arlinda) off the coast of Africa with a mute nurse, whose only instruction is to monitor them and send reports back. The scientists return every six months; Bates to measure their skulls, Belavoix to observe their behaviour.

Over the years, it becomes obvious to Bates's assistant, Quartley, that something is horribly wrong here. The children are falling ill, and his master shows no concern whatsoever for the fact that they'll lose their sight without intervention. The Frenchman wishes to leave them with a knife, in order to facilitate the murdering of one by another.

Quartley, alongside another prominent person in the script, is in a quandry, and must choose whether to let his moral objections intervene.

This was a nice story, and one that I throughly enjoyed reading. Nonetheless, the unexpected ending was disappointing. I was geared up for a happy ending between the children; it didn't come to pass. Yes, that holds truer to reality, where happy endings aren't guaranteed, but I felt let down that I never got it.

Still, it's a book that I recommend.
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