Superheated Seattle is the setting for a wise story of ethics and family affection.
Everyone around him seems to be raking in zillions for nothing more than a concept or a fortunate pre-bubble home purchase, but Dr. Henry Moss has been too distracted by his lifetime of work in a backwater of medical research to get in on the gold rush. His study of children cursed with Hickman syndrome, the horrifying genetic problem that zooms infants into old age without passing go, has proven rewarding only in its contacts with the ancient youngsters and their bewildered and adoring families. The number of victims is too tiny to rate a telethon, but the study is fascinating. Now, though, there may be hope. The family of a recently presented Hickman child also includes a son who has the fatal gene combination but shows no symptoms. Thomas is, in fact, uncannily healthy, thanks probably to an extra genetic factor that seems to erase aging. Building his story around Moss’s unethical use of the miracle gene to help the wonderfully winning William Durbin, a Hickman child nearing the end of his expected life span, first-novelist Byers (stories: The Coast of Good Intentions, 1998) includes the lesser but absolutely real dilemmas faced by the Moss family’s Ilse, a nonpracticing Austrian physician; Sandra, a basketball phenom; and Darren, smart, a little geeky, and William Durbin’s secret link to the normal world. No one is overdrawn, everyone is as real and worth knowing as he or she can be. Ilse is looking for her place in a country she would never have chosen for herself were it not for Henry, and the children are looking for their spots in the only country that they could possibly understand. What may upset their applecart is the possibility that the anti-Hickman gene may be their ticket to the stupendous wealth that is washing through the American bloodstream.
Deep and real.