Eva (novel)

Eva (novel)

infobox Book |
name = Eva

image_caption = 2001 Macmillan paperback
author = Peter Dickinson
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction
publisher = Gollancz
pub_date = 6 Oct 1988
media_type = Print (Hardcover)
pages = 224pp
isbn = ISBN 0575043547
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Eva" is a young adult science-fiction novel by Peter Dickinson, published in 1988. One of his best-known books, it received the Phoenix Award in 2008.

Plot introduction

When 13-year-old Eva is badly injured in an accident, her consciousness is transplanted into the body of a chimpanzee. The novel concerns her efforts to adjust to her unique situation. The setting is a future when urban civilization has spread across the globe, with disastrous effects on other species.

Plot summary

The novel opens as Eva wakes in a hospital bed, paralyzed. Her mother assures her she will be fine, that the doctors will gradually reduce the paralysis. Eva guesses that her face has been badly scarred, but when she looks in a mirror, she sees the face of a chimpanzee. An experimental procedure has been used to transplant Eva's "neurone memory" into Kelly, a young chimp from her father's research facility.

Eva learns to adapt to her new body, using a keyboard to simulate her voice. She has dreams of a forest she has never seen - that Kelly has never seen either - and imagines it comes from the chimpanzee unconscious. She realizes that she must accept the chimpanzee part of herself, which is easier for her as she has grown up with her father's chimps.

The cost of the procedure has been met by a media company in return for broadcast rights. Eva is a big hit with the public and her family has to cope with massive media interest. The power of the 'shaper' companies is immense in a world where many people spend all day at home. 'Shaper' technology is a cross between television and virtual reality.

Eva spends most of her time with humans, even going to school, but also spends time in the Reserve, where she learns to adapt to the chimpanzee social group. Her human understanding helps her to manipulate some of the situations and she becomes accepted by the others. One particularly intelligent chimp, Sniff, is intrigued by her.

With the introduction of enthusiastic animal rights advocate Grog Kennedy the novel takes another turn. He convinces Eva that for the sake of the species the chimpanzees must return to the wild. Not only do they belong there, but Grog believes the human race is running out of steam and will before long no longer bother to care for animals in captivity. At this stage there are only small pockets of wilderness left, and most species have died out.

Grog and Eva devise an ingenious plan to get the chimps to the island of St. Hilaire near Madagascar where Eva and Sniff lead the others in an escape. Her human knowledge is necessary to help the chimps learn the skills necessary to survive, which means that she must cut herself off from other humans. The novel ends twenty-one years later when Eva is near death, the human race is in decline and Eva imagines a future in which the descendants of her band of chimpanzees become the new dominant race.

ignificance in the author's work

The novel returns to the ecological themes of the "Changes Trilogy" (1968-70) and "Emma Tupper's Diary" (1970). The former imagines a psychological change in the human race, and the second deals with the survival of a species. In one of his detective novels "The Poison Oracle" (1974), a chimpanzee who has learned to communicate becomes a witness in a murder case.

Concerning the writing of "Eva", Peter Dickinson describes his original concept of a woman making contact with an early ancestress while in a coma. [ [http://www.peterdickinson.com/Biblio_YA.html Peter Dickinson YA fiction - Eva] ] The book was much changed from the original concept, but the Adam and Eve cartoon which Eva watches is a remnant of it, and Eva herself becomes an ancestress of sorts. The author has since returned to the idea of our remote ancestors in "A Bone from a Dry Sea" (1992) and "The Kin" (1998).


"Eva" was highly commended for the Carnegie Medal in the year of its first publication. [ [http://www.peterdickinson.com/Biblio_YA.html Peter Dickinson YA fiction] ] In the USA it was a Honor Book in the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards of 1989, [ [http://www.tamu-commerce.edu/Library/boston.htm Boston Awards] ] and in 1992 won the Pacific Northwest Library Association's Young Reader's Choice Award. [ [http://www.trinity.wa.edu.au/plduffyrc/subjects/english/fiction/dick.htm Trinity College - Peter Dickinson awards] ] In 2008 it received the Phoenix Award, for an outstanding book published twenty years earlier which did not win a major award at the time. [ [http://www.childlitassn.org/Phoenix_Award.html Phoenix Award] ]


"Eva" is one of Peter Dickinson's best-known books. The author says: "80% of my mail, almost all of it from the USA, is about this one book. This baffles me." [ [http://www.peterdickinson.com/Biblio_YA.html Peter Dickinson YA fiction - Eva] ] The novel is used in classroom study to stimulate discussion of medical ethics, animal rights and other issues. [ [http://www.maslibraries.org/infolit/samplers/eva.html Maine School Libraries worksheet] ]

Neil Philip in the "Times Literary Supplement" described "Eva" as "one of the better books of a first-rate writer. It is highly provocative, it has tenderness, humour and passion. It involves the reader from the very first page and will not quickly leave the mind." Ethel Heins in a "Horn Book" review described the novel as "a work of passion and eloquence, and its sobering significance increases in proportion to the reader's maturity." In a longer "Horn Book" essay Betty Carter cited "Eva" as a good illustration of Dickinson's place as a thought-provoking author for young adults. "The topics raised in "Eva" transcend the fleeting concerns of adolescence. Dickinson shows tremendous respect for his readers and their ability to grapple with hard issues that range from euthanasia to the influence of the media...." [ [http://www.answers.com/topic/peter-malcolm-de-brissac-dickinson Peter (Malcolm de Brissac) Dickinson at Answers.com] ] In an essay in "The Lion and the Unicorn", "Exodus from the City: Peter Dickinson's "Eva" by Kathryn V. Graham, "Eva" is placed in a tradition of British children's literature which elevates the rural setting above the urban. [ "The Lion and the Unicorn", Volume 23, Number 1, January 1999, pp. 79-85 ]


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