________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 3 . . . . September 20, 2013


Destination Human. (Orca Currents).

K. L. Denman.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
127 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0371-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0372-5 (hc.) ISBN 978-1-4598-0373-2 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0374-9 (epub).

Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.

Review by Karen Rankin.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Chloe snorts. "Why not? The better question is why would I? This is my body and you're trespassing. You didn't even ask. You barged in[to my mind] and – oh, forget it. I don't have to explain. Just go!"

"That is an excellent question," I say.


"Your question about why you would agree to co-exist with me," I explain. "I'd like to answer that question."

"Welkin, I don't need you to–"

"No, it's quite all right," I interrupt. "I want to answer. My answer is that you'd agree because it would provide you with the opportunity to study me. You see?"

"Wow. That is so lame. Do you honestly think I've ever given a single thought to studying a Unitard?"

"Universal," I correct. "I'm a Universal."

"Whatever," it sighs. "Give it up, Welkin."

It appears that I am unable to suppress my host. Nor will it [ie: Chloe] cooperate. Conclusion: Chloe is correct, and my only option is to give up. This means I'll have to take Float's dreadful bioethics class yet again. Thinking about another eon of that droning voice is deeply depressing. And then there will be the cruel mockery of my classmates...that will be the worst.

"Aw, Welkin, really?" Chloe asks. "The other Uni's will laugh at you?" It shakes our head again, slowly this time.

I can't answer it. I can only think about how dismal it is to be a failure.

"Listen..." Chloe murmurs. Then she quickly adds, "No forget it." . . . she drums our finger on a nearby table. "But then," she goes on, "It's only for three days, right? It would be sort of like having a pet, wouldn't it? Although I'd prefer a kitten to an alien."

"What are you saying?" I ask.

"Well, if you could stop thinking of me as an it – females are her or she – I might be willing to help you out."

"You'd help me? Allow me to stay and experience the physical form?" This is amazing behaviour for a primitive.

"I'm not a primitive, Welkin," Chloe says. "Man you have a lot to learn."

Destination Human is told from the perspective of Welkin. Welkin is a Universal, that is, a superior thinking being without a body. As such, he/she can move easily from one dimension to another. In order to pass a Bioethics course, Welkin must conduct a study of primitive life by going back in time and invading the body of a juvenile human. Unfortunately, when Professor Float explains the process that must be followed, Welkin is not paying enough attention. He/she has three days to complete the Bioethics assignment and leave the human's body, knowing that "all bodies occupied by Universals die when [they] depart." After wishing him/herself back in time, Welkin follows a primitive – Chloe – home from high school. Then, something goes wrong when Welkin invades her body. Not only is he/she unable to read Chloe's mind, but she can read his/hers. Over three days, Welkin experiences the pleasures and demands of the human body. He/she also learns that 'primitives' are able to do and feel marvelous things, such as running with the wind and eating chocolate. Welkin's new insights make it difficult for him/her to leave Chloe when the Bioethics assignment is completed. Professor Float must get involved – meaning another possible course failure for Welkin and the death not only of Chloe, but the boy on whom she has a crush.

      Destination Human touches on a number of issues, including evolution in general, our dependence on technology, and prejudice. Analogies may be drawn between Welkin's prejudices as a Universal towards "primitives" and the hubris and ignorance too often found amongst some in North American society today. Welkin's observations may also make readers pause to consider things usually taken for granted, such as the following: our ability to make thought and memory physical through creating art; the feeling people dancing or doing a sport can experience when their minds and bodies become "a marvelous unit in perfect harmony;" and how "thoughts pale when the body is in action."

      Author K.L. Denman weaves engaging humour into this thought-provoking and fast-paced story. While the dialogue could have benefitted from a bit more editing, Destination Human is a fun and enlightening novel – another winner in the "Orca Currents" collection.

Highly Recommended.

Karen Rankin is a Toronto teacher and writer of children's stories.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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