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A nifty premise and several imaginative unforeseen developments are the chief pleasures of this otherwise fairly generic biomedical thriller, the first novel from horror-film director Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, etc.). The protagonist is Dr. Peter Jance, a 70-ish physicist working in top secret among a mysterious cadre of scientists and military hardheads (the eponymous “Society”) in the New Mexico desert. The problem: Jance has terminal pancreatic cancer and may die before putting the finishing touches to a conveniently portable ultimate weapon that promises decades of US military invulnerability. The solution: Geneticist Frederick Wolfe (amusingly nicknamed Nosferatu) arranges the kidnap and murder of vigorous 30-ish Swiss investment banker Hans Brinkman (another neat name), whose DNA is a virtually perfect match for Jance’s. A brain-transplant operation and several related complications later, Jance is strutting about like a pup, to the dismay of his wife, Beatrice, and the confusion of Brinkman’s mistress (whom nobody knew about), fashion model Elizabeth Parker. She somehow (don’t ask) ends up on the very Caribbean island where Wolfe’s machinations proceed as planned—until Jance’s brain and Brinkman’s body begin playing tricks on each other. The setup is okay, but once Craven’s characters begin commingling on that island, the melodrama—and the cornball rhetoric—take charge. Shortly before becoming preoccupied by fleeing for their lives, “Peter Junior” (Jance-Brinkman’s cover identity) and Elizabeth are seen “making love, . . . a thing that was tidal and profound and full of mystery.” Uh-huh. Right. To his credit, Craven doesn’t seem to take any of this high-concept nonsense very seriously, and the story zips right along to its utterly predictable, ironic fadeaway conclusion. You probably won’t be missing much if you wait for the movie.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84660-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1999