A young transgender doctor, Ry Shelly, is in the middle of the debate of artificial intelligence. What is possible, what is desirable? What makes a human being a human being and could bots be the better versions of us? AI will surely solve a lot of problems, but won’t it create new ones at the same time? Ron Lord is one of the people who will invest in the new technology and hopes to make a lot of money with it; his aim is the creation of the next generation of sex dolls which fulfil all wishes. At the same time, we travel back to the year 1816 when a young woman turned the idea of creating a human being into a highly praised novel: Frankenstein.
With “The Gap of Time”, Jeanette Winterson already showed for me that she is a highly gifted author who can use an old plot and turn it into something completely new that is not only highly entertaining but also beautifully and intelligently written at the same time. In her latest novel, she turns to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein and takes the idea if man as the creator of human being on a higher and contemporary level.
I love the idea of taking and old plot and transferring it to our time, the Hogarth Shakespeare series has clearly proven that this can be something really worth undertaking. The novel skilfully woves the time of Mary Shelly’s stay at Lake Geneva, when she wrote her story of the famous monster, and Ry Shelley’s journey through the world of AI. At times, the dialogues are simply hilarious – I especially liked the one about the sex dolls – at others, the is a serious and in-depth discussion about the chances but also the ethics of AI. And she also raises the big questions of life and death and what comes after the later.
I read an electronic version of the book and marked so many sentences that I now have a large list of quotes that I would eagerly share but that goes far beyond a review. Apart from the wonderful language, there are so many allusions and cross-references that it is a great joy to decipher the novel, beginning with the names of the characters and ending at films such as Blade Runner and the Greek mythology. All in all, a brilliant piece of work that surely is among the more demanding novels and therefore, again, underlines Jeanette Winterson’s place among the highest ranked contemporary authors.
Leo Kaiser is rich, he has everything he can wish for: money, a beautiful wife, MiMi, a beloved son, a successful business. Nevertheless, there is a certain guilt that he has been carrying around all his life: he was responsible for his best friend Xeno’s accident when they were kids. Is this the reason why Xeno has an affair with his wife and is the father of MiMi’s unborn child? MiMi and Xeno as well as his business partner Paulina try to make him see reality again, but Leo is stubborn and blinded by his anger. His rage finally leads to the catastrophe: his best friend gone, his son dead, his wife divorced and his daughter missing. Apart from his money, Leo has lost everything. On the other side of the world, Perdita grows up with a loving father and a caring older brother. She lives eighteen years not knowing what had happened to her real, biological family. When she meets the love of her life, suddenly, all the pieces match and add up to a completely new picture of her life.
The Gap of Time is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series and Jeanette Winterson has created a cover form of the bard’s comedy The Winter’s Tale. The author stuck quite close to the original: we have King Leontes – now Leo, king of a business imperium called Sicily; Hermione, his beautiful wife has become lovely singer MiMi; Polixenes, Leo’s childhood friend and later enemy shows up as Xeno; his son Florizel is now represented as Zel; the noblewoman Paulina who secretly holds the reins in both stories; and Shep(herd) and his son Clo(wn) who raise Perdita, the lost daughter. The plot itself has been placed into the computer game world of London and a bit refreshed to give the impression of a modern story. Albeit the story is known and the happy-end could be expected, I enjoyed the novel because Jeanette Winterson has a virtuous way of using language creating humorous and sharp puns and she does not refrain from openly alluding to Shakespeare himself. The comedy is downright entertaining from the first to the very last page and she absolutely managed to create characters who can surprise us, even though we are quite familiar with them, and seem to be authentic and imaginable as real persons.
Again, we can see also in this novel that Shakespeare’s plays can easily stand the test of time. Quite obviously, we have not developed any further during the last 400 years and are still governed by basic emotions such as love, pride, anger, desire, sadness and fear. Those universal sensations can easily be transferred to other places and times and do not lose any of their impact on human behaviour. One really has to congratulate the people behind Hogarth Shakespeare for picking gifted authors who make something new by respecting all that Shakespeare stands for. I am really looking forward to Jo Nesbo retelling Hamlet and Tracy Chevalier on Othello which both are to published in 2017. which both are to be