Nancy Farmer’s straightforward writing style has me constantly comparing Matt to Akin, from Lilith’s Brood. Both characters are products of genetic engineering. The Oankali incorporate foreign species into their genetic make-up, while Matt develops in a cow; this might not seem very much alike until one considers that in Farmer’s universe, an eejit or clone mother with “blunted intelligence” could have brought Matt to term. This inexplicable use of another species to create the clones is reminiscent of the Oankali’s inability or unwillingness to explain “trade.” Matt and Akin both look human, excepting a single feature that must be revealed to be identified (Matt’s tattoo and Akin’s tongue); even so, everyone they encounter doubts their humanity, and tends to treat them as dangerous monsters, objects, animals, unpleasant reminders, and property. Finally, both Matt and Akin have what appears to be above-average mental capabilities: Matt may not have perfect recall, but he excels in math and art and language and music and shares Akin’s almost superhuman ability to bounce back from emotional trauma by applying a logic that sometimes seems too childish, and sometimes seems too adult. In Lilith’s Brood, the salvage site has a distinctly Latin American feel to it, and there’s a definite hispanic flavor to the sort of Christianity to which Akin is exposed. Matt is exposed to the same religious flavors, though he accepts them with the trust of any human child. Finally, there are some amusing similarities in the way that Tam Lin’s first lessons to Matt involve taking him out into the poppy fields, where Matt sees how they are harvest and how humans (read: organisms) are used as tools to harvest, and a secret oasis where he teaches Matt about coyote dens and beehives and how all organisms rely on water, including Safe Horses (read: organism that already serves as a beast of burden being modified to be less an animal and more of a shuttle, not unlike the moving platform-slugs in Lilith’s Brood).
What I find more interesting than the similarities themselves is the fact that once I started entertaining the vague notion that Akin and Matt felt similar and listing actual examples, a great many more examples made themselves apparent. In the interest of a focused entry, I’ve avoided mentioning all the ways Akin and Matt are different. Still- I wonder if their similarities are coincidental, or if this says something overall about the use of wunderkind in science fiction.