An embryo is given the chance to choose if he wants to be born or not. As part of a bio-experiment that looks to discover the cure for unsettled, violent, and emotionally tormented future generations, the embryo meets a range of people who help him make his important decision, people that vary in beliefs, professions, age and wealth. From an orphan who wishes he didn't exist, to a retired writer of greeting card messages, to a painter, a playboy, and a mother tormented by a past mistake, Prospect soaks in his surroundings with an innocence that defies the physical stature of the twenty year old body he was given to inhabit by Big Farm Technologies.
His 'Facilitator', Trish Mesmer, the woman from who's mind the basis for the experiment came, comes across as both mean and nurturing. She protects Prospect in a way that fortifies her morally twisted views. The connection that develops between them becomes a problem for her superiors, who threaten to fire her for her lack of professional resolve. It is feared that Prospect isn't being guided well enough. Big Farm Technologies wants Prospect to choose to be born and to splash their innovation in the press. They want Trish to persuade him into choosing to be born even if that means to rig the experiment in a way that exploits Prospect's innocence. While Trish struggles to regain control and preserve the nature of the scientific experimentation process, there is a secret plot set in place by a 'referral' who's not too happy with science, to push Prospect off the edge, to overwhelm him, and to make him choose not to be born.
The story opens with a intriguing prologue which tempts the reading palate with questions and the desire to find answers. I loved the poetic analogies scattered throughout the prose. With very little description, Okita conveys a lot of vivid emotion and movement. Each analogy opens up a unique way of picturing mundane things we often take for granted. The analogies provide a stable connection between the reader and Prospect, establishing an understanding and mutual excitement between the reader and Prospect's POV.
"The bus is very interesting. When you walk onto a bus, it's like you're walking into a party to which you haven't been invited, but to which are instantly welcome." - through Prospect's innocent eyes the reader learns to appreciate the most simple things. The narrative floats somewhere between a first person account of what Prospect is feeling, seeing and doing to a classic present tense third person retelling of his adventures. He develops a different connection to each of his 'referrals' that further explores how social interaction affects an impressionable mind. After each meeting, his personality evolves. It's as if the reader is allowed to witness Prospect maturing, from a lovable child to a beautifully sarcastic adult.
There's a great sense of wonder in the narrative. Prospect indulges in some awkward actions, though what should be wrong seems right to him and his innocence makes it all believable. His connection to Lito, the orphan 'referral' is particularly enchanting. The lack of prejudice on Prospect's part in the relationship brings into play a commentary on humanity as Prospect, being so foreign to judging anyone on anything other than how they treat him, presents the positivity need to overcome the negativity in our world. Over time his interaction with his other 'referrals' becomes more three dimensional. Prospect grows beyond just being innocent. He handles himself with an increasing will to adapt and learn and to emulate the people around him.
The ending caught me by surprise. It almost made me cry. As Prospect steps away from his innocence to become a man tormented by all the people who are counting on his gradually failing ability to give them what they want, he finally takes matters into his own hands.
A powerful novel, Dwight Okita's The Prospect of My Arrival delves deep into the meanings of life, love, and curiosity. Once you read it, you'll never forget it.
"I was given the name Prospect because people have high hopes for me" - and he definitely didn't disappoint.