LIVING PROOF

Stem-cell research and big government’s intrusion into everyday lives take center stage in a debut novel by journalist Peikoff.

Arianna is a physician and fertility specialist who operates a New York clinic that specializes in implanting harvested embryos in women who have been unable to get pregnant by conventional means. The year is 2027 and Arianna’s one of many medical-clinic operators terrified of a shadowy government agency known as the DEP, or the New York Department of Embryo Preservation, a super-right-wing effort to ascertain that embryos are legally protected from misuse, which includes research. Clinic operators like Arianna must endure monthly embryo counts from the agency’s armed representatives, who have the power to exact huge fines and worse consequences from those who violate their rules. Trent Rowe, an inspector with the DEP, suspects that something is off with Arianna’s clinic, and his boss, Dopp, wants the evidence. The DEP’s survival could depend on a well-timed investigation, and Dopp instructs Trent to go undercover and find the proof that will allow the agency to close Arianna down. Trent, the product of deeply religious parents, manages to insinuate himself into Arianna’s life, eventually finding out her deepest, darkest secret and meeting Sam, her old friend and champion, who works diligently to help her through a personal crisis. But as the man who originally set out to destroy Arianna finds himself increasingly attracted to her, Trent also fights his upbringing and indoctrination by the DEP to view people like her and Sam as the enemy and themselves as the arbiters of right. Peikoff shows a deep understanding of the issues she explores, but she paints the future with a shallow hand, never quite convincing the reader that her version of 2027 is possible. Her characters, in particular Trent and arch villain Dopp, come off as over-the-top, thoroughly evil and unforgivable, but never interesting enough to justify the reader’s time. Peikoff may have serious reporting chops, but this book roils with manufactured melodrama and presents a future that comes across as anything but plausible.

 

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2930-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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