Rachel in Love by Murhpy, Pat, 1987

Rachel in Love by Murhpy, Pat

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The Science Fiction romance story is a hard-to-find beast. Plenty of books out there deal with the other many-splendored sides of love, such as parent/child, familial, sexual, and such, but romantic love, if it is present, is usually not the main focus of SF stories. Rachel In Love by Pat Murphy is an exception, and it is incredibly well done, even if it is not a traditional romance story.

Rachel is a chimpanzee, but she is different than most others. She literally is the "daughter" of Dr. Aaron Jacobs. Dr. Jacobs was a cybernetic researcher who had been let go by his university for his radical ideas. He theorized that every brain had a unique pattern of waves to it, and if you could capture that pattern of waves, you could capture a personality. One day Dr. Jacobs' daughter and wife were killed in an automobile accident. Rachel was a teen at the time, and Jacobs had recorded her brain waves in his home lab. Devastated by his loss Jacobs acquired a chimpanzee, boosted its mental processes, and implanted Rachel into it. Rachel survived in her new form, though she had confusing memories of both of her past lives. Dr. Jacobs taught Rachel American Sign Language so that they could communicate, as Rachel's larynx was not up to the task of forming words. At the beginning of the story Rachel awakes to find her father dead of a heart attack. Eventually the police show up to investigate the good doctor's mysterious disappearance and find the corpse and Rachel. Rachel is corralled and sent to a primate research center where she is deloused and stuck into a cage to await mating.

Rachel watches with growing terror as the woman pulls on rubber gloves and fills a hypodermic needle with a clear solution. "Mark down that I'm giving her the standard test for tuberculosis; this eyelid should be checked before she's moved in with the others. I'll add thiabendazole to her feed for the next few days to clean out any intestinal worms. And I suppose we might as well de-flea her as well," the woman says. The man grunts in response.

Expertly, the woman closes one of Rachel's eyes. With her open eye, Rachel watches the hypodermic needle approach. She feels a sharp pain in her eyelid. In her mind, she is howling, but the only sound she can manage is a breathy sigh.

The woman sets the hypodermic aside and begins methodically spraying Rachel's fur with a cold, foul-smelling liquid. A drop strikes Rachel's eye and burns. Rachel blinks, but she cannot lift a hand to rub her eye. The woman treats Rachel with casual indifference, chatting with the man as she spreads Rachel's legs and sprays her genitals. "Looks healthy enough. Good breeding stock."

Rachel moans, but neither person notices. At last, they finish their torture, put her in a cage, and leave the room. She closes her eyes, and the darkness returns.

The cage that they put her into contains an old, feeble and brain scrambled chimp who can speak ASL. The Center does some pretty horrific sounding research on primates, so Rachel decides to play dumb, lest she be put in with the research pool. Her first night there she encountered Jake, a deaf, alcoholic janitor. Rachel pleads with him to let her out, and he does when she promises to help him clean up. Over the next few months Rachel bonds with Jake, who lets her out every evening. She helps him clean, and then the two go back to the janitor supply closet where they eat while Rachel reads romance magazines and Jake reads porno magazines. Rachel eventually starts to fall for Jake, but before she can think about how to tell him, one of the scientists at the center puts Rachel into the breeding pen where she encounters a very aggressive male named Johnson. Rachel spends most of her days thereafter watching Johnson show off for her, and most of her nights in the arms of Jake, who is completely oblivious to Rachel's sexual attraction, but generally likes her company. One night Rachel starts to go into heat. That evening she tried to seduce Jake, and then presented herself to him like a Chimp would. Jake was again oblivious, and out of frustration Rachel stomped off to Johnson's cage, ripped the door open and let him have his way with her. Realizing that there would be no future for her and her new family in the center, Rachel sprung Johnson and escaped the center with him.

Over the next week, she listens to the conversations of the men who come and go, bringing food and hosing out the cages. From the men's conversation, she learns that the Primate Research Center is primarily a breeding facility that supplies researchers with domestically bred apes and monkeys of several species. It also maintains its own research staff. In indifferent tones, the men talk of horrible things. The adolescent chimps at the end of the corridor are being fed a diet high in cholesterol to determine cholesterol's effects on the circulatory system. A group of pregnant females are being injected with male hormones to determine how that will affect the female offspring. A group of infants is being fed a low protein diet to determine adverse effects on their brain development.

As the two entered the desert a reporter got news of their story and out of boredom decided to investigate and follow up. The chimpanzee pair was spotted all over the place and the reporter went to a location where they were rumored to have spent the night. On one of the cave walls he found inscribed in a heart "Rachel + Johnson." After he ran the picture in the newspaper the chimp couple's fate changed. People stopped reporting them and left food out for them. The story ends on a high note.

What Murphy accomplished in this story so very well was to resolve some fierce longings in a character with divergent memories and divergent desires. Rachel was clearly a product of two different species. The stress she was feeling was from her human feelings of love twisted by her chimp side's coming into season. This was the core of her dilemma, as she did not know if she was the willowy, beautiful 12 year old girl anymore, of if she was pure chimpanzee. This story is an excellent new take on the Frankenstein story, and itís a great love story to boot.

Copyright © 2008, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 4 star(s)


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