Versus Nurture

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Versus
Nurture
by Jonathan David Morris, Amazon, 2012. ($3.99 ebook,
$8.99 paperback)

Fiction can
— and has — changed the world.

Think Harriet
Beecher Stowe's warmongering Uncle
Tom's Cabin
or John Steinbeck's novels and their advocacy
of socialism. On a far smaller scale, Ayn Rand tried to justify
narcissism, boorishness, and immorality by mislabeling them "individualism."

But fiction
can also improve the human condition. Versus Nature
lies in that elite class. This is no idle story, told simply to
entertain — though you will laugh and occasionally blink back a
tear as you skim its pages, racing ahead to answer those essential
questions all good stories provoke, What happens next, and
Why? If you prefer a moral to your riveting reads, you'll
love VN.

But let me
hasten to add that VN isn't propaganda. The author's underlying
message of peace rather than war and the blessings of freedom never
supersede his concern for his characters or the plot. In fact, his
message is subtle enough that it's mere background: for example,
the heroine's hatred for war after her brother enlists and dies
informs her reluctance to become a mother. On her first date with
the man she ultimately marries, she explains, "…[A]s long as
there are people in this world who still … think war is just a part
of human nature, it's just u2018what we do,' I could never have a kid.
I could never bring a person into this world when little girls are
still losing their brothers for wars not even their brothers understand.
… that's a world where kids are just pawns in some big game they
never asked to play in. My brother was eighteen. I was nine. And
for no good reason, they took him from me."

Were Mr. Morris
writing propaganda, his hero would respond with a long diatribe
against war. He doesn't. Instead, he reassures her, "I just
want to hang out … I don't want to knock you up."

VN follows
this couple from their initial meeting at an anti-war rally (which
Mr. Morris deftly and humorously handles; he is not preaching pacifism
to the reader but laughing with him at political correctness) to
a momentous decision they must make 9 years later, one that will
affect the entire human race. Along the way, VN offers something
for everyone: time-travel; a denouement with wham-bam fisticuffs,
lots of blood, and a fight to the death; an intense love story and
the extension of married love to the children it produces; a debate
over bearing those children; a wealth of ideas and issues.

Mr. Morris
excels at that last, again lightly injecting a moral view of each.
For example, neither he nor his characters condemn abortion, but
his heroine strongly protests any suggestion that she would murder
her own baby; in fact, she physically attacks the woman who tries
to persuade her to do so. Meanwhile, her beloved husband has been
lying to her since the anti-war rally, given his silence about a
very personal but pertinent fact. A sin of omission, which our secular
age no longer even recognizes, let alone damns, but which nonetheless
finds him out.

One of my few
criticisms of VN is its unrealistic ending. There's the time-travel
as well as some technology from the future that is never explained
— but Mr. Morris pulls both off. Instead, I found some of the logistics
unbelievable or inconsistent. For instance, it seems to me one of
Mr. Morris's characters from the future should be missing a hand,
given his earlier maiming. But I rarely read science fiction and
am certainly no expert on time-traveling's paradoxes, so perhaps
I'm wrong.

VN hooked
me from its dedication ("There are some pretty crazy ideas
in this book. But the idea of dedicating Versus Nurture to
anyone other than my beautiful, supportive wife, Rachael, would
easily be the craziest of all") and continued snaring me
with its first chapter. In it, a young husband and wife who obviously
and deeply love one another agree that he must kill them both that
very night; her only request is that he do so "efficiently."
The rest of the novella supplies the back-story to this shocker
— one you won't want to miss.

April
11, 2012

Becky
Akers [send her mail] writes
primarily about the American Revolution.

The
Best of Becky Akers

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