W.F. Halsey,
To Kill an Eidolon
(Speculation Press, 1999)

Winifred Halsey's To Kill an Eidolon takes an interesting concept and gradually builds on this throughout its 243 pages, culminating in a satisfying conclusion that nonetheless paves the way for a sequel. The "eidolon" of the title is, by definition, a phantom or apparition. In this instance there is a foul and direct connection betweens eidolons and illness, with a variety of consequences, few of them pleasant.

Only cats and humans possessing certain genes are able to see these apparitions, and certain of the humans have formed a society of "Insiders" who battle to rid the world of the parasitic phenomena. The Insiders' special powers and their ruthless determination to kill and prevent the increase of eidolons and their associated diseases make them formidable enemies and unpredictable friends. They have far-reaching influence, especially in the medical world, and their ethics and goals are often at odds with accepted levels of personal rights and freedoms.

Many humans able to perceive these colourful amorphous beings are committed to insane asylums for their apparently bizarre behaviour -- indeed the stress sometimes drives certain sensitive Insiders to suicide, while others are killed, overcome by the defence mechanisms of the eidolons they attack. The ability to see these phantoms confers danger and is a demanding responsibility.

The story is told in a deceptively simple manner, making for a quick and enjoyable read. On several occasions, however, I did think that this story had been abridged, as I could have happily accepted more details than the author divulged. Some characters are sketched out lightly, others are given more depth and background, but there is always the suspicion that more information has been withheld to be provided later.

This minor niggle aside, Halsey introduces the scenarios logically and provides believable human interaction, a facet often missing in science fiction novels. There is an unconventional love triangle in addition to family concerns and professional rivalry and companionship. The central character, Susan, begins her post-doctorate research as a molecular biologist, unwittingly coming under the microscope herself; her boss and several colleagues in the university are Insiders with research of their own to do -- on her! They have maneuvered to bring her within their ranks, aware of her double-edged potential to be a powerful fighter for their cause or to bring about an eidolon disaster of pandemic proportions. She is unwittingly on trial, under the intense scrutiny of the Insiders as a group, her life in the balance as individuals condemn her or defend her according to their interpretation of her unique situation.

To Kill an Eidolon is a well-concocted tale, running the gamut of apprehension, love, jealousy, fear, paranoia, bravery, pity, horror and friendship without overloading on any one emotion. The plot maintains interest, due not only to the concise style but also the original idea and I will certainly be looking out for future releases from Halsey.

[ by Jenny Ivor ]
Rambles: 31 August 2002

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