Kirkus Reviews QR Code
ELIXIR by Gary Braver


by Gary Braver

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-87308-5
Publisher: Forge

The discovery of a potion that reverses aging and prolongs life leads all-too expectedly to tragedy in this overstuffed, slow-to-develop thriller.

While on a field trip to Papua, New Guinea, in 1980, Chris Bacon, senior researcher for Darby Pharmaceuticals, learns of tabukari, the `forbidden flower of long days.` His old school chum Iwati, now a powerful shaman, has been smoking it for years. More than 120 years, in fact, though Iwati sometimes quaffs it as tea or mixes it with his yams. So, why it takes years to process and costs millions and several lives is hard to fathom. In any case, once international drug lord Antoine Ducharme is brought into the deal by Darby's greedy but weak CFO, Quentin Cross, anything can and does happen. Called `tabulone,` the elixir seems to actually work. Miss an injection, however, and it's an ungodly death via accelerated aging as demonstrated by several mice and monkeys, plus one witless lab assistant. Chris, fearful of early-onset Alzheimer's, is tempted to start the treatments on himself. First, though, he's framed by Cross and Ducharme in the murder of a recalcitrant geneticist and the blowing up of a plane. Chris, his wife, Wendy, and their newborn son are forced underground and assume new names and identities. Chris (now called Roger), who absconded with all of the elixir samples, lab notes, and formulas, begins taking the drug. At 50-something, he looks 35. The FBI finds him out, though, when an old friend spots him despite his youthful appearance. The confusing denouement takes days to play out and brings to the final chase not just Ducharme and the FBI, but a paramilitary radical religious leader who's decided that Chris/Roger is the Antichrist.

Too much happens to too many people over the course of too many years. After the third or fourth climax, the thrill is gone.