A successful executive runs a biotechnology company that could disrupt what it means to be born.
Widger (Real Happy Family, 2014) brings us Silicon Valley culture in full, satirized display. It is “a weird place,” as one character notes. “All that brainpower and ambition, but hidden underneath a kind of…laid-back skin.” There are many thinly fictionalized versions of real icons. People drive Elans; LikeMe is a social media company founded by Harvard-dropout Reed Zimmerman; and Tessa Callahan, our protagonist, is a tech executive and a famous feminist icon as the author of Pushing Through: A Handbook for Young Women in the New World. The Seahorse Solution, her company’s newest invention, accelerates pregnancy to nine weeks, and three women are participating in the first human trial. To Tessa, this technology can only empower women with more choices for if and how to become mothers. But it raises bioethical questions that feel neither far-fetched nor far off. Would this kind of technology actually empower women, or would it only further fortify the age-old expectation that women can and should become mothers? And what of those women who are ineligible or can’t afford an upgraded pregnancy? Disappointingly, the book doesn’t deeply explore these possibilities. Instead, it picks up pace and moves quickly in several directions. There is a lingering threat of potentially overlooked and very serious side effects. Luke, who is Tessa’s business partner (and the spoiled son of the late Reed Zimmerman), withholds crucial information from her. And a secret government agency has its own agenda for Seahorse. All this makes for a fast read that comes together a bit too quickly and cleanly in the end.
Feminist and bioethical themes threaded through a fast-paced if familiar plot.