The Breakthrough ★★★★☆
Daphne du Maurier
Genre(s) | Short Story, Literary
Goodreads Rating | 3.16
Humpo Show Rating | 3.80
Publisher: Penguin Modern
Dispatch the maimed, the old, the weak, destroy the very world itself, for what is the point of life if the promise of fulfilment lies elsewhere?
On the windswept coast of rural Suffolk, a deranged scientist attempts to extract the essence of life itself.
Du Maurier has managed to create a strong story in less than 60 pages- the characters have an identifiable personality and motives, the storyline is intriguing, and her writing style is straight-forward, which helps to propel the action on swiftly. Steve is our protagonist- he has been transferred from a job he enjoys, to Saxmere, where his technical qualifications and unique work experience is desperately needed for their experiments. These experiments are under the command of Mac- an enigmatic and passionate scientist, who explains his risky and far-reaching goals to Steve. Given the reputation that Saxmere and Mac have, Steve has his reservations about the job, but the mystifying and persuasive nature of the work and Mac sees him stay and to see out the work asked of him.
The storyline meminded me of when I read Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, where Dr. Katherine Solomon is conducting experiments to find out if the human soul exists, through an experiment that monitors the weight of a human as he/she dies. There has been plenty of study afforded to this subject matter, but given the events in du Maurier’s, there is a striking similarity that got me wondering. Did The Breakthrough provide some inspiration for any of the experimentation in connection with the human soul, as well as Dan Brown’s novel?
The ethical and moral conundrums and questions that are raised from the experiment are perhaps dealt with a bit too quickly. It would have been more effective if the fallout of the experiment had more focus attributed to it, the arrival of the Ministry officials could have been delayed so as to give our protagonists adequate time to discuss the repercussions of the experiment and what it potentially means, or could lead to.
The Breakthrough is a good book. It has whetted my appetite to read more of du Maurier’s work, in particularly Rebecca, but the abruptness of the ending detracts from what could have been an engaging and fascinating fallout in regards to the experiment.