Consider Primacy as the more hard-boiled counterpart to another recent novel with a similar theme, Unsaid. Both dealt with the idea of a superintelligent ape threatened by unscrupulous research scientists, and whose very existence is a challenge to the notions of human supremacy most homo sapiens hold dear. Natural comparisons will also be made to the wonderful and compelling film, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
This is how reviewer Jennifer Parruchi of the animal advocacy website Our Hen House assessed the animal rights content of Primacy:
One of the great things about Primacy is that these characters, and their stories, create the opportunity for the author to bring up many important questions for anyone who has ever cared about an animal. For the most part, he doesn’t shy away from these issues.
Indeed, those on both side (or no side) of the vivisection debate will find much food for thought. It is a relief to me that animal research is not just portrayed as the gallant work of selfless scientists, but a business beholden to the whims of the marketplace as much as anything else. Arguments both for and against vivisection are presented within the text, and it’s not just the simplistic media version of “Grandma vs. a rat.” Kudos to Fishman for doing his research in this respect.
While Fishman brings up many pressing topics about our responsibilities to other beings, most of the animal rights advocates in this book do not come off well. The fictional animal liberation group in the story Folks Against Unnecessary Lab Testing, is sort of a catch-all for stereotypes of activists. The Our Hen House Review notices this as well:
Unfortunately, however, while the animal rights activists who make up the membership of FAULT are not portrayed as the enemy, or as complete crazies, they nonetheless come across as misguided. Their stance for total liberation of animals at any cost – rather than focusing on what is best for an individual animal – is, in my experience, totally uncharacteristic of animal rights activists, who truly value each individual (as well as total liberation). This flawed portrayal is, perhaps, not surprising, since Fishman, disappointingly, is careful to assert in the epilogue that he is not an animal rights activist, while asking readers to do their own research on the subject of animal testing.
Animal advocates who read Primacy will no doubt instantly spot another inconsistency that doesn’t ring true; namely, what is with all of the meat-eating animal rights activists? If you’re willing to break the law and go to jail for your beliefs, as the activists in this story are, is it REALLY that difficult to order the vegetarian sub? Jennifer Parruchi writes:
Perhaps telling of Fishman’s ambivalent, even contradictory, attitudes toward our proper relationship with animals is the fact that the book does not adequately go there when it comes to food, and the torture of animals on factory farms….[These issues] are simply glossed over, leaving a wasted opportunity for interesting discussion among the book’s protagonists.
Despite a few disappointments, however, Primacy is a well-crafted science fiction thriller that takes the issue of animals in vivisection seriously, and presents these issues to a new audience that would perhaps never pick up a book on the philosophy of animal ethics.
(review originally appeared at goodreads.com)