The LastCave Bear II:
A Search for Intelligent Life
by Shannon VanSlyke DEWI Inc

"Wainwright had to admit to an occasional lapse of memory or judgment. But it was frustrating to never be able to convince someone when they were wrong, or even get them to take the time to think things through."

Wainwright is a patent attorney working in the legal department of a tire manufacturer. He is brilliant and introspective, but has difficulty in expressing himself in a manner that has a positive impact. He constantly evaluates the motives and feelings of others and also has a paranoiac fear of the various personality combinations. Wainwright notes with disdain that his ideas are disregarded at dinner until the group finds out that he has practiced patent law for twenty-five years. His thoughts are valuable regardless of his credentials.

Wainwright begins to reflect upon the world. When he had been working as an eighth grader, at 4'8" in height, people ignored his ideas, but three years later when he was 5'7", it seemed that everyone listened to him. This approach to considering others seems to translate into adulthood biases regarding IQ, test percentiles, or the years one is assumed to have practiced a trade or art. He also makes particular note of which associates are talking to other groupings and who seems to be chatting up the supervisor who dislikes him. Does perception trump reality? Wainwright says exactly what he means, but he is befuddled when someone takes his comments as personal criticism. In the final chapter, Wainwright observes his closest companions forming groups roughly based on their psychology and is both relieved and burdened by the observation.

Van Slyke does an outstanding job of placing Wainwright as a participant in his world, an observer removed from it, and the critic of all the players. Ocasionally a single sentence creates a multidimensional observation of the same act or statement. This excellent juxtaposition makes the reader the proponent and the critic simultaneously. The Last Cave Bear isn't a myopic view of the world, but an analytical slice of self and others.

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