Is it doable to fall in love with an octopus?
“I might child myself that I’m doing it to avoid wasting the human race,” she says, “however truthfully? I’m doing it for the cash. The cash I owe to the aquarium for his or her octopus.” However nobody does one thing so dire merely for the cash, as one other volunteer observes. (“There have been at all times simpler methods of constructing a couple of quid.”) And, then, there’s that octopus, a creature Neffy got here to know whereas employed on the aquarium, whose destiny, we be taught, is certain up together with her current predicament — her determined want of cash, sure, but in addition the grief and guilt informing her selections.
As those that swooned over the documentary “My Octopus Instructor” know, and as Neffy tells us, “It’s doable to fall in love with an octopus.” Neffy, it appears, realized this at a young age, snorkeling off a Greek island — the place her father remained when Neffy and her mom returned to London, organising a childhood cut up between the cool actuality of England and the magical land of heat and delusion. Pursuing an octopus-adjacent profession as a marine biologist, after which as an aquarist (one who manages an aquarium), she has found, with career-ending penalties, that caging or conducting experiments on octopi is just too merciless for her to bear.
A lot of this we be taught from a collection of mysterious letters, addressed to solely “H,” that Neffy composes whereas confined to the ability the place the vaccine take a look at is being performed — and thru one other system Fuller cleverly works into the more and more difficult relations between the volunteers — not less than the few who’re left as soon as issues go disastrously awry. One among them, Leon, has developed a course of for permitting individuals to relive their recollections (“Revisiting,” he calls it — some kind of technological mumbo-jumbo that we’d as nicely tackle religion, as a result of, in spite of everything, the world is ending), which works notably nicely on Neffy. Whereas below its spell, she inhabits previous moments together with her current understanding intact, an expertise infused equally with elegiac pleasure and frustration.
In the meantime the virus is mutating into an much more virulent variant, stranding the trial contributors on the BioPharm facility, interrupting the proceedings, scattering the workers and leaving Neffy as the one one of many remaining 5 volunteers who has been given each the vaccine and the virus … and survived.
Having watched horrific scenes unfold on the streets beneath their home windows, and having witnessed the collapse of the trial whereas Neffy hallucinated her means via the virus, the opposite 4 — a mix-and-match solid of 20-somethings who have been by no means vaccinated, and so are nonetheless inclined to the virus — clearly know one thing they’re holding from her, whilst they give the impression of being to her, together with her presumed immunity, to exit and procure provides as soon as their meals and water run out. Additionally they appear to have conceived a plan for her, the one efficiently vaccinated particular person on the earth, to start producing immune kids.
Think about a “Lord of the Flies” the place everybody on the island has opted in; or a “Breakfast Membership” the place anybody who leaves dies: Relationships will type and deform and character will win out. In the event you, like Neffy, have been more and more more likely to be the final one standing, would you, like Neffy, be tenderhearted, variety, and resourceful sufficient to encourage hope for humanity at, actually, the final minute? It’s a neat trick that Fuller pulls off, weaving collectively so many acquainted threads, from the post-pandemic storyline to the extremity-in-isolation situation to the life story reconceived below duress, and but developing with a brand new and promising sample — an authorial efficiency in step with her beneficiant character.
Ellen Akins is the writer of 4 novels and a group of tales, “World Like a Knife.”
Tin Home. 277 pp. $27.95
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