The DNA Dimensions
Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.
In this juvenile SF novel initially set near Winnipeg, Rebecca, 11 1/2, her cousins Norman and Beth (11 and 10, respectively), and their friend David, 11, fall through a “doorway” into a parallel universe where they are captured and taken to Central City Number 1 in the country of Pred ruled by Kard. Everyone has been programmed in this computerized city so as to remove all “negative” qualities, such as competitiveness, while the individual’s true capabilities are enhanced. Kard’s goal is first to program everyone in Pred in order to produce citizens exhibiting harmonious passivity, and then to move on to the DNA dimension of genetic engineering, whereby all future children will automatically be replicas of their parents. Rebecca, Beth, and David escape from the city, but Norman, who has overheard how Kand maintains his authority, remains behind and captures Kard and the gold disc/transmitter Kard wears, which permits him to control the zombie-like military. Instead of attempting to locate his friends and return home, Norman dons the disc, becomes Pred’s newest dictator, and adopts the law “Loyalty to Norman.” In the countryside, the three children, fugitives initially from Kard and then from Norman, stumble upon an underground movement of unprogrammed people. With the movement’s aid, the three outwit Norman, recover the disc, free the Predians, and discover the doorway home. Back in his own world, Norman ominously announces that when he is an adult, he will seek the same total power he tasted on Pred; the others realize that their fight has perhaps just begun.
Though the “doorway” device to Pred is clumsily handled, Matas creates a credible universe in which to explore briefly such themes as mind control, genetic engineering, and totalitarianism.
Because the action moves quite quickly, readers of nine to eleven will not likely question the young central characters’ very mature behavior. Distributed throughout the book are a dozen full-page illustrations reproduced in shades of black, white, and gray which help readers visualize Pred. For SF, the characterization is adequate, but there is insufficient antecedent action to account for Norman’s sudden display of megalomania.