Megan Miranda’s Soul Print published by Bloomsbury jumps into the sea of literature as a sci-fi thriller. Although the novel encompasses scientific observation yet it floats into the world which seems to be fantastical. Megan Miranda here raises new possibilities where she connects people to their previous criminal souls. However, one can question: what is real in her writing?
Martin Luther king rightly says:
"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."
Similarly, in this novel science misguides a lot and this limitation of science becomes the reality and the essence of Miranda's "Soul Print".
The narrative begins with the story of a seventeen-years-old girl Alina Chase whose soul(supposed to be the soul of June Calahan) is contained in an Island with thirty-two guards. The psychological commotion going on in Alina's mind sets the ground for an immense suspense ahead in the story which compels readers to turn the pages without much effort. Contained Alina says:
"I didn't have a choice. I'm being contained because it's too dangerous for my soul to be free."
The entire novel envelops Alina's pursuit-story to discover how and why her soul is a "perceived threat". Indeed, the story essentially reflects the quest of Alina to find her own identity eclipsed under the cloud of June's soul. It manifests how a girl craves for becoming herself. Even a mere idea of escape from containment is immensely titillating for her. The major focus of the novel is: Will Alina be able to escape from the Island and be able to free herself from her past life?
Alina is born with lots of trouble. It becomes totally inhuman to insert a tracker inside the rib of a little girl so that her soul, the so-called criminal soul of June, would not be able to roam freely. June Calahan never appears physically in the story but haunts almost every character. However, readers grow curious to know what was the crime June committed; was that really a crime or was just made to like so.
The idea of freedom always enlightens a chained person; so Alina also sparkles with hope when the idea of freedom is triggered by Cameron, an unknown young lad. Cameron cuts the tracker out of her rib. The anticipation of enjoying freedom is ecstatic to the extent to overshadow the acute pain Alina was going through due to the cut that bleeds constantly for the want of stitches. She admits overwhelmingly :
"My heart races as I imagine the ocean-the calm blue that stretches straight to freedom."
Miranda pours in the philosophy of existentialism through Alina's constant questioning on her own existence. The time Alina gets that her physical freedom is not too far, new struggle starts for recognising her own individual identity. She contemplates:
"I feel as if I do not exist."
Indeed, the personage of Casey who accompanies Cameron (later recognised as Cameron's own sister) drags the attention of readers the most. It is Casey who is the first to make Alina realise the power of identity. Alina regrets on the fact how her containment has deprived her of the enjoyments of life Casey's enjoyed ; the art of swimming, the knowledge of computer programming and with these the confidence and courage. Casey rebukes Cameron when he tries to display his talent of stitching that he never practiced before. She says:
"I bet outrunning three guards and outswimming a motorized boat aren't on your list of talents."
Hearing this Alina wished to be like her "more competent ,more capable". Thus Casey comes out as a foil to Alina.
The novel gathers momentum with the entrance of one of the sinister characters, Dominic Ellis. Firstly, he emerges as the main mind planning Alina's escape using Casey. However, the just-received freedom of Alina seems to be in danger as now she gets contained in Dom's clutches. She is Dom's slave now and cannot go against Dom's wish. It is unknown where Dom is carrying Alina. She loses the right to ask anything as she says:
" I am so far beyond asking."
In order to unfold the layers of suspense behind all these chasings Miranda uses flashback technique. Narration shifts backward to uncover the vital clues of Alina's past. It is quite interesting that Alina herself peels off the haziness and confusion attached to June. The story goes back to unravel the story of June and Liam. June and Liam once hacked a database (database recording the data of criminal souls) at the security of Alonzo-Carter Cybersecurity thereby crushing the arrogance of two founders ,Alonzo and Carter, that their database is secured to unhackable. The informations from the database became raw material for some scientists who started devising a strange correlation of present criminals of his time to the souls who were criminals in past lives. June and Liam thought to warn society of all criminal souls so that the future crime would be anticipated thus prevented. Unfortunately June pays for her too much faith in humanity and knowledge as she was blamed to misuse the information for blackmailing people. The excitement in experimenting over printing criminal souls ends in the murder of both June and Liam. Miranda rightly says:
"This is what a belief can do to you."
Till then the story progresses on fantastical ground of "soul printing", but Miranda intellectually wipes these fictional framing with connecting all the fiasco to the " lust for money". Dom is chasing Alina to access the money he thinks June must have hide somewhere and he strongly believes that Alina must know where the money is kept. Alina says to Dom when he tries to titilate her by the charm of money:
"No , I don't want June's money."
"Your money" (Dom corrects)
"June's money" (Alina re-corrects)
In due course Alina is convinced that the rumours about June's and Liam's crie were all rubbish and now she is determined to destroy the source (database) of all these mess. It is worth-noting how Alina starts sensing June's virtual presence directing her. Alina is able to expose a dark cavern. An element of horror pervades when Alina seems to see and listen June.
"I feel like a magic trick...I feel June whispering to me, pulling me awày."
Inside the cave one of the three boxes reveals papers with numbers written that showed groups of lives carrying their previous criminal soul. However numbers were written by Liam not by June.
Story takes another U-turn when Alina comes to know that Liam's soul is descended on Dom. Now Dom's intension is visiblely clear who wants to get inside the database to continue the game of "Power and Money". Dom becomes violent and put a gun at Alina when she denies not to aid him. However, Alina somehow manages to flee with Cameron and Casey. At this stage readers come to know why Casey and Cameron is here. They are here for finding some clues about their lost sister Ava London who disappeared on strange circumstances and Casey was suspicious of Ava's being blackmailed by June. However, the incident of auto-theft by Cameron creates humour and the love-making scenes between Cameron and Alina breakes the monotony amidst all these plotting and intrigues. Miranda is outstanding in verbalising love and romance. Alina says about Cameron:
" He doesn't grab my hand , but his passing body has the same effect , pulling me along."
The time Alina's emotional vacuum is filled by the tender accompaniment of Cameron and Casey, she gains courage unfelt before. The story reaches at its climax when she tries to unfold the meaning of "224081. Ivory Street" and finds the main connecting link between both June and Alina. Ivory Street, a trecherous and cunning old woman who was responsible for using and defaming June's name. June had come to Ivory when she found the study wrong and vulnerable but Ivory killed her. As Alina is demanding the answer in the same way June did , she is now at Ivory's gunpoint. It is remarkable to note the psychological transformation of Alina's mind when she smiles and says to Ivory;
"I'm not June."
Ultimately Alina's self-identification grabs the attention of the readers.
For the first time June's soul's sole purpose is revealed. What June left for Alina is not the database but the truth behind all these conspiracy;
"...the longest of the long games."
Once June was Alina's identity. Now Alina becomes one to clarify June's stained and criminal identity. She says;
"This was the end for June but it will not be for me."
The question of money and power was always with Ivory not with June. June was a mere scapegoat.
However, Ivory Street was only the controller of database not the maker whose identity was yet to be revealed. After capturing Ivory they search some clues that turn all the suspicions towards the villain at the head ; Mason Alonzo(one of the founders of Alonzo-Carter Cybersecurity) , currently the professor of computer science at Elson University.
The suspense is always there in the story. Again the narrative turns turtle when Dominic treacherously inserts a tracker in Cameron's body. However the way Alina moves the blade on Cameron's body in order to find tracker exemplifies her deep love for Cameron. Cameron cringes out of pain. Tracker is detected and Mason is found.
The climax is full of action when Alina acts triumphantly by destroying all the information at Mason's laboratory. She stripes all the wires out and pries all circuit boards from Mason's computer further leading to a blasting fire in the room. The greed for money, power and scientific knowledge leads Mason and Dominic to burn in the flame as they try to save the lab and enter into the burning lab.
The burning computers, wires, circuits symbolise the burning of malaise created on the name of scientific experimentation and technical development. Miranda has well exposed how humanity is at stake in this world of science and technology.
This book carries all the essential elements of interest; fusion of science and fiction, the realistic representation of human inclination towards covetousness and the constant chasing after power, glory and authority. However, Alina's metamorphosis into a courageous and confident girl and her confrontation and identification of her own self soothes the readers the most.
Reviewed by Prity Barnwal
A Master's Degree holder in English Literature,
Prity is an avid reader and reviewer hailing from Dhanbad, Jharkhand.