Book Review : Glenn Gray - Transgemination (2017)
Science gets a bad rep in mainstream fiction. Movies like to make it the short sighted adversary of faith. Scientists are always the last ones to believe in supernatural occurrences and often put everyone in danger. Author Glenn Gray, a radiologist in his day job, likes to invert that trope and portray people doing stupid stuff and endangering their health in a scientific light. It's great and unsettling in the best possible way. That is not what he did in his new novella Transgemination, though. It's not so much a departure as it is an attempt subvert his own writing and it kind of works?
Let me explain.
Transgemination is the story of Karl and Stew, a pair of simple-minded Nebraskan corn farming cousins. They find a slimy blob in their filed one day, which they believe to be an animal turd of some sort, but it's not. That thing is alive and starts quickly rampaging through their field and shifting shape at an alarming rate. The police, the government and gentlemen in lab coats get involved, but that unidentified life form doesn't take no for an answer. Where will that thing stop now if it's facing a bunch of people that aren't even in the right frame of mind to understand what they're dealing with? It's not stopping anytime soon.
So, Transgemination is making fun of the human impulse to try and explain everything. To make it fit within the narrow boundaries of our understanding of the world instead of expanding it. The space blob-thing is blissfully eluding explanation and whenever the characters in Transgemination are trying to name it or define its nature, it changes shape and they have to start all over again. It's funny and it's good natured. The amorphous blob is basically a stand-in for the inexplicable and Transgemination is structured around everyone's desire to pinpoint it. It's fun, simple and it moves fast.
There's a lot more to unpack to Transgemination: the B-movie influences, the intriguing Carl Sagan-like introduction, but it all really fits in the first half of the story. It really is structured like a thriller where the first two acts set up a mystery and the last two are long, intricate action scene meant to resolve that mystery (or at least, try to). I liked Transgemination, but I thought it was a little lengthy and over-the-top for what it was. By any means, read it. You could order it today and read it in one sitting for Halloween night without breaking a sweat. I didn't like it more than I like the usual medico-legal, weirdo Glenn Gray, but it was a pleasant experience even if it went on for just a little too long.