Shadowy forces set loose a Brave New World eugenics program, unbeknownst to their researcher.
Erlick is a retired surgeon and researcher, and it shows in a debut novel where the characters can’t wait to argue about chromosomes, gene vectors, and delivery methods. At the center of it all is Dr. Kevin Kincaid, a brilliant researcher who’s about to crack open a major discovery in gene therapy. The money behind his research has launched a $300 million lobbying campaign for legislation that would permit the type of Playing God activities his work is leading toward. Of course, things are never so easy. Federal agents are busy investigating Edwin Loring, the Machiavellian mind behind a cabal of international evildoers called the Collaborate. Loring, who also happens to be Kincaid’s boss, could very well have had a hand in the explosion that killed Kincaid’s family several years earlier (a hit by the Collaborate that took out another researcher suspected of disloyalty). The impetus behind Kincaid’s work is the hope that being able to introduce custom-built genes into human cells—potentially while the patient is still in the womb—would be the route to curing horrible diseases and disfigurements. Naturally, everyone knows that such a miracle would come with A Price, perhaps along the lines of the Dr. Moreau–style Collaborate lab in Mexico that already mutilates children while trying to develop genetically altered humans. Along the way to Kincaid’s discovering the hideous truth, there are breathless chase scenes, triple and quadruple crosses, even a bit of romance with an agent who, thanks to plastic surgery, has been turned into a creepy double of Kincaid’s dead wife. Even when the dialogue is atrocious (a government operative tells Loring, “And if you think I’m bluffing, remember that it wasn’t Al Gore who invented the Internet—it was us!”), it’s still good fun.
While Crichton treads water, it’s good to see someone else take up the reins with such gusto.