Book Review: The Divide by Robert Charles Wilson

The Divide follows John, a man changed through chemical processes before birth to become the 'perfect' human. During childhood he developed Benjamin, an alternative personality to cope with the world. Now in adulthood the divide between the two personalities is breaking down, which could be a symptom of coming catatonia or death discovered in animals studies of the process that made him.

The story is almost totally character driven, looking at the differences between John and Benjamin, how they react to different women, and whether the perfect human is just a fantasy of the scientist who created them. Added in for different viewpoints are an assistant helping the creating scientist, a working class girl Benjamin has been living with and the girls violent brother, giving an element of brutal action to the story and an extreme mirror image of the calm and calculating character of John.

Wilson seems to know his subject and the book is pleasingly free of inaccurate terms such as schizophrenia for John's disorder. He also touches on whether language is what makes us different from other animals, and whether a higher use of language, such as the way John sees the world, is central to what makes him a more advanced human.

All in all an interesting book which manages to cover both the highs and lows of being an advanced or brutal human, and show the tenderness in a relationship that a perfect human may not be able to attain.

Title: The Divide
Author: Robert Charles Wilson
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 0708848419
Published Date: 1990
Pages: 249

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Review by Paul Silver, 2004