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From Barnes & NobleGary Braver launches his novel writing career with a tense spinetingler that addresses an age-old question: Would you really want to live forever? The search for a fountain of youth has driven mankind for centuries, and in Elixer, Christopher Bacon, a young biochemist, finds one. He travels to an isolated tropical island near New Guinea, where he discovers a native man who claims to be nearly two centuries old yet doesn't look much over forty. The native's secret is a drug, the distillation of a substance found in a rare orchid that grows on the island. Not only can this amazing substance stop one's biological clock from ticking, it can even turn it back a decade or so, providing a wondrous rejuvenation. But in order to maintain the effects, the substance must be continually given. Stop it, and the results are disastrous.
The first person to discover what happens when the drug is stopped is Bacon's lab assistant, a man in his 60s with life-threatening heart disease. The man's very public death is a hideous spectacle that puzzles all who witness it. Chris, who has spent six years using the drug on mice in secret experiments while working in a pharmaceutical company's research lab, begins to get a glimmer of the problem when his oldest mouse dies. But before Chris has a chance to look deeper into it, the company's ruthless CFO, Quentin Cross -- son-in-law and heir apparent of the company's owner -- discovers what Chris has been up to.
Realizing the potential to make millions, not to mention attain immortality, Quentin falls in with some unsavory cronies who come up with a plan to steal the drug and eliminate all witnesses who know of it, including Chris, his wife, and their newborn son. But Chris grows suspicious and, at the last minute, steals all the samples of the drug made thus far along with his notes on how to produce it. He then goes into hiding with his family where, in a moment of weakness, he injects himself with the drug, shaving 10 years off his life and freezing him in time at a biological age of 32.
After 13 years in hiding living under false identities, Chris and his family are exposed through an unfortunate coincidence. Life on the lam has been hard enough, but the increasing tensions created between him and his wife as she ages and he stays forever young, have made a terrible rent in the fabric of their marriage. To make matters worse, the existence of Elixir is now a matter of public speculation, triggering a mass hysteria that threatens to destroy world peace. Faced with the inevitable repercussions of the drug he created, Chris is forced to make some difficult and selfless decisions that will have a horrifying impact on both his family and him.
Braver manages to capture the agonizing ambivalence of immortality perfectly, showing it through the eyes of a family torn apart by their own emotions and the powerful knowledge they hold in their hands. The ethical and social dilemmas that would likely be created by such a discovery raise a number of intriguing questions. And Braver exploits every one of them, making for a delightfully provocative read.