In the year 2020, Fred Edwards and his colleague Sandrina LaFaccia of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago are deeply involved in research on Egyptian mummies. They enjoy their work, and are anxious to learn as much as possible about their subjects. Fred suggests to LaFaccia and their director, Dr. John Beatty, that they try to clone a mummy, in order to track its development. They decide to fertilize human eggs with genetic material taken from King Tut, then work with a fertility clinic to implant the eggs in the wombs of women seeking treatment. To ensure their experiment escapes scrutiny, they match the eggs with women who look like they could have given birth to boys that resemble the pharaoh. At first, the experiment seems to be a success; however, the project is eventually disbanded and Edwards, LaFaccia and Beatty lose control of their clones. Years later, a series of events brings the clones together. They soon learn the incredible secret of their birth and chart a course to rule Egypt once again. Berkhout’s audacious premise is buttressed by vivid settings and finely drawn characters. The settings are expansive, stretching from Illinois and Wisconsin to Germany, Australia and conflict-battered Egypt. Berkhout moves back and forth through these places at a frenetic pace that adds urgency to the narrative. The clones, and their respective home environments, are particularly well-conceived; each clone stands out as a unique character, due to Berkhout’s skillful development of their diverse backgrounds. However, the novel does suffer a bit from curious editing choices; for example, certain curse words are censored, but the seduction of a young clone by his mother’s girlfriend is presented in graphic detail.
Berkhout brings a provocative premise to life, but its effect is somewhat diminished by awkward editing.