Science major gives life to sci-fi novel

David Specht

Nearly 10 years ago, shortly after graduating high school, Grand Valley State University biochemistry undergraduate Thomas Harper wrote a handful of short stories, one of which focused on the concept of reincarnation. Though written primarily for pleasure, Harper realized that the piece could make for a successful science fiction novel. Shortly thereafter, he devised a plausible ending to the story and began the writing process. 

While the early drafts spent years on the shelf, Harper would occasionally revisit the work, further developing characters, adding new elements and revamping the overall tone and style of the novel. As of Nov. 2, the first edition of Harper’s novel, titled “Incarnate: Existence,” is available for purchase on Amazon.

The 600-page text focuses on Marcy Riviera, who is thought to be the world’s only immortal being. The story follows the main character through her attempts at leading a normal life whilst carrying the psychological baggage of her endless instances of reincarnation. Not surprisingly, Harper claims his interest in philosophy played just as big of a role in the creation of the novel as his biochemistry background did.

“While there is science involved in my work, it’s more of a philosophical exploration,” Harper said. “I hope to get people to think on some difficult questions, even if the answers can’t be found. But I also hope that people can find enjoyment in the story. 

“There is more than just philosophy and science – there is also action, adventure and suspense. Even if a reader isn’t as interested in the more high-minded ideas being explored, I think there is still something in my work they can enjoy.”

Notions about the nature of reality, consciousness and morality are explored and dissected throughout the narrative. Harper feels that the book should raise a number of difficult questions in the mind of the reader. 

“It’s become a bit of a deconstruction on the idea of reincarnation while also raising numerous philosophical questions,” Harper said. “’What does it mean to be me?’ ‘Is there only a single ‘me?’ ‘Does ‘me’ persist through time, or does ‘me’ become someone new over time?’ ‘Is history led by ‘great persons’ or is it shaped by trends and forces?’”

As a biochemistry student, Harper recalls days on which he would return home from campus and make a correction to certain aspects of the novel’s science based on what he learned in class that morning. 

“While this novel probably wouldn’t technically be considered hard science fiction, I tried to make all of the science involved as plausible as possible, especially when it comes to the issue of gene doping that figures into the story,” Harper said. “There is a bit about molecular genetics and gene doping that plays into the story, so certainly [various chemistry and biology courses] played a roll in my knowledge of these subjects. Having majored in biochemistry has made it easier to keep the science behind the science fiction as accurate as possible.”

Though Harper’s pioneer work was just recently published, he has already laid the foundation for several other novels he plans to release, two of which are the remaining installments in his “Incarnate” series. 

“It quickly became clear that I’d need to do the story in more than one book,” Harper said. “‘Incarnate: Existence’ is the first in a trilogy now, based on that original manuscript. I have a pretty extensive outline already written for the next two installments, as well as about seven chapters of the second book written so far.” 

And while a single trilogy is undoubtedly much more than most other undergraduates are actively writing, Harper has managed to create somewhat of a stockpile of potential novels. 

“Even outside this series, I have several other ideas for stories,” he said. “Two of them I’ve already started writing, having about 20 chapters written of one and about 10 chapters written of the other.”

Understandably, he plans on finishing the current series before focusing on the other works. 

Though the first installment in the “Incarnate” series has been published, the author is working to complete a second edition of the book, which will attempt to resolve many of the technical issues including grammar and spelling that were troublesome in the first edition. Harper says the revised edition is set to launch within the next month. 

For more about Thomas Harper’s “Incarnate: Existence,” visit

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