TO KILL AN EIDOLON
W. F. Halsey
Speculation Press / 243 pages / August 1999
Your first reaction upon finishing a reading of To Kill An Eidolon may well be, “What an odd, little book.” It was my reaction on reaching that last page, but that doesn’t quite sum it up. This slim volume is, by turns, fascinating, unsettling, disappointing, and familiar.
Susan Danville has a lot on her mind. She is starting her post-doc work in molecular biology. She just moved back to her hometown of Chicago after years of schooling at Berkley. And, her father is in an institution for the insane. All that and a possible relationship with another biologist! So, if she seems a bit on edge at times, she has her reasons.
All these complications, and that’s before she begins to notice that not everything is as it should be in the halls of higher education. Is it her imagination that there seems to be a strange elation and tension among some of her co-workers?
It’s more than a bit of stress at the school; even before she arrives, a committee is debating whether Susan will be allowed to live, or if she too must be terminated. Though it sounds like a tough decision, it is one the Insiders have faced many times before. Their unique work in the eradication of diseases is too important to let anyone interfere — no less than the survival of the human race is at stake.
With all of this on her shoulders, how is a poor Ph.D. to choose between two handsome suitors? If that sounds like a blurb from the cover of a romance novel, there’s good reason for the similarity. To Kill An Eidolon has its science and it comes by the classification “science fiction” honestly. The underlying concept is an intriguing new way to view disease and death. But, for all the chemistry, biogenetics, and eidolons (you’ll have to read the book to find out what those are), the driving forces in the novel are the romances forming and shattering between the characters.
Much of the characterisations, motives, and reactions are much more suited to a contemporary romance novel than hard, or even soft, science fiction. That’s not a negative comment; SF can often be barren of romance and vulnerable characters — space marines “getting their ashes hauled” is not the stuff bonds are made of. Perhaps, To Kill An Eidolon swings too far into the romance area, but that stretch may be the very thing that tempts another reader to give science fiction a try.
If you can’t get enough bacteriological reading in, this would be an interesting diversion for you. If you like to see a woman-in-peril surrounded by protective and psychotic hunks, take this chance to venture beyond the “bodice-rippers” and that teetering stack of Harlequins you checked out of the library. Either way, this is your chance to stretch without undue mental fatigue, and you just might enjoy it.