The Human Script, by Johnny Rich, looks at life and what that means. It asks big questions within the context of a fictional tale, pondering how much of what matters to an individual is a construct and how much is real. It explores cause and effect, nature and nurture. It demonstrates that the course of an individual’s life is largely beyond his control.
The protagonist, Chris Putnam, is a biologist working on the Human Genome Project. He is still coming to terms with the break up of his first long term relationship when his brother phones to tell him that their father has died. Chris had not spoken to the old man in many months. He reluctantly returns to the family home for the funeral but is then eager to get away. Over the coming months, as his grief works its way to the surface, Chris encounters problems at work, dabbles in drugs, and neglects a good friend who wishes to help. He also falls in love.
The story is told in 23 chapters, a novel in 23 chromosomes. It offers up the science of what makes a person unique alongside the emotional issues he must face. It took me a few chapters to find the narrator’s voice but I was then hooked on what is a compelling and intelligent read.
A little over halfway through the book Chris reaches crisis point in a number of areas of his life. The reader shares in his thought processes as he struggles with an accelerating downward spiral. Chris is a scientist, a realist who has rejected the religion of his upbringing. He finds the idea that he is unable to determine the direction his life will take an anathema.
The final third of the book is dark in tone. In refusing to be what others want Chris finds himself questioning his very essence. His problems are exacerbated as the science he has relied upon fails him, and the freedom he has fought for becomes his prison. Reality becomes muddied as his perception of life shifts.
The denouement does not offer answers; such answers would be as facile as Douglas Adam’s 42. Instead the reader is left to consider all that has gone before. Chris’s actions influenced events, allowed him to change course, but he could not control the future. Likewise, an author does not control what his reader takes from a book; such perceptions are determined by the reader’s life experiences as much as by what is written down.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Red Button Publishing.