by Michael Crichton
Review by Steve Sawicki
HarperCollins Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0060872985
Date: 28 November, 2006 List Price $27.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Frank Burnett participated in a UCLA study that used samples of his tissue to derive some genetic material that turned out to be pretty unique. UCLA went on to use that material to develop a number of drugs and procedures. The problem was, Frank Burnett, besides the initial compensation (curing him of a terminal illness for free) receives nothing. UCLA holds that they own the cells and that Burnett, even though it's his original tissue, has no claim on them or anything derived from them. The court agrees.
Dave is a genetically engineered chimp who can speak and think. He's managed to escape, with some help from his creator, from the lab in which he was being studied. The escape, or theft, depending on how you look at it, was the result of some bad business decisions on the part of the company that helped create Dave. Dave contains genetic material that could get a lot of people in a lot of trouble since the very creation of Dave violates any number of laws and statutes.
In Chicago, Dr. Martin Bennet gets a visit from a woman who claims to be his daughter after her mother used donated sperm to artificially inseminate herself. Problem is, Bennet has the gene for cocaine addiction and the daughter of the woman who used his sperm passed this on to her. Now she blames Bennet not only for her addiction but for putting her daughter, his granddaughter, at risk.
Gerard is a parrot that has also been genetically altered. He talks, he thinks, he's incredibly annoying and he's making his way to California. All of these stories have a common thread that plays out through the arenas of corporate finance, venture capitalism, greed, and forbidden science.
Crichton does what any good writer should do--take a common occurrence and expand it to some fairly logical conclusions. Along the way, of course, a lot of drama gets added in and it's all wrapped around some pretty interesting characters. I have to say this, Crichton can certainly write one heck of a book. This is a pretty large book, both in subject matter and in length. Like his previous books, Crichton manages to present a very complex subject in understandable fashion and make the whole thing interesting while he is doing it.
I found this book to be captivating, not only for the writing but for the political, social and ethical issues that rise from the actions. Crichton does an excellent job keeping a large cast of characters moving and involved in a plot that surely seems too disparate to ever come together except that everyone has this single link in some way to genetic manipulation. I would highly recommend this book. It's an excellent thriller and a great read.