The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist is a short novella (or long short story) reworking The Little Mermaid with a modern twist. It follows a scientist who studies the atargati, an intelligent species that live in the depths of the ocean.

People in general call the atargati mermaids, but Dr Cadence Mbella finds that insulting. They aren’t mythical creatures but an advanced people who we should show some respect to. But humans being humans, they have an unending curiosity for new and different things. The doctor herself is pretty curious. Curious enough to give up everything in pursuit of knowledge and love?

I remember trying to convince myself I hadn’t fallen for Aíoëe because I didn’t know her. Within the first hour of spending time with her, I knew I was wrong. She’s only talking to me, I can’t talk back, but—she’s everything I yearn for in a person of any species. Curious. Cerebral. Witty and caring in the ways I wish I was.

There’s plenty about colonialism and the exoticism of other cultures, the casual racism that often happens when people aren’t familiar with other races. The view of the military when they capture an atargati is particularly believable. The atargati are genderless and the protagonist is queer, which she feels helps her better understand them. People project a female gender onto them just because of what they look like, but their culture has no concept of this. The story shows how gender is sometimes not relevant in who you fall in love with.

Maybe I don’t have a definition.

In places it’s a little obvious, especially where it talks about non-binary gender, but I suppose if you’re hoping to educate through your stories, maybe you need to do this. I prefer a more subtle approach personally and I think I would have worked out the messages without them being spelled out. Still, an entertaining little tale to while away an otherwise boring commute.

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Book Source: Purchased