Welcome to the year 2027, the new Dark Ages of scientific research where not only has stem cell research been completely outlawed, but the termination of any embryo, even those “left over” from in vitro fertilization treatments, is considered first degree murder.
The Federal Department of Embryo Preservation (DEP) practices strict oversight on fertility clinics, making sure that every embryo generated is accounted for. Those not actually used must be stored in a viable state in perpetuity, and clinics are subject to both yearly and random inspections to ensure they are performing up to Federal guidelines.
Dr. Arianna Drake runs one of the most successful fertility clinics in New York. A little too successful in the eyes of Gideon Dopp, a former priest and current Director of the DEP. Given that Drake’s father was an outspoken scientist and she herself supported a radical professor during her time in school, Dopp is leery about exactly why Drake’s clinic is producing so many embryos.
Determined to figure out what she’s up to, Dopp sends one of his agents, Trent Rowe, undercover to get close to Drake and dig up the dirt the DEP needs to shut the clinic down. After all, not only does Dopp suspect Drake of criminal activity, the DEP really needs the PR boost that shutting a clinic down would bring. The more the devoutly religious Rowe learns about Drake and what she’s up to at the clinic, however, the more he begins to question not only his mission, but his faith as well. Now both Drake and Rowe must decide where to put their trust: in science, God, or each other? Their choices will have ramifications not just for the two of them, but potentially the future of all scientific research.
As one could easily tell from author Kira Peikoff’s guest post yesterday, “Books Instead of God?”, Peikoff isn’t afraid to dive headlong into religious and political waters that many would find too treacherous to risk even dipping a toe in. And that’s exactly what she’s done, jumped right in the deep end and taken both the stem cell research debate and the government’s creeping intrusion into individuals’ lives by the horns and wrestled them squarely into the plot of her bold debut thriller, Living Proof.
And while Gideon Dopp and Arianna Drake represent opposite ends of the science/religion spectrum, where Living Proof truly flourishes is in the character of Trent Rowe. Peikoff cleverly uses Rowe as the moral conscience/compass of the book, allowing him to be the one character who views the events unfolding with a mind open to the impact the decisions being made will have on both science and religion, as well as on those who live their lives by the strictures of each.
Given its charged and potentially controversial subject matter, Living Proof is not going to be a book that works for everyone, especially if you like to keep your pleasure reading and religion/politics separate. Those who don’t mind a little of the real world creeping in, however, will find Living Proof to be a thought-provoking look at a possible scientific future that is disturbingly not as unrealistic as it may have sounded only a decade or two ago.
Living Proof is available from Tor Books (ISBN: 978-0765329301).