Bova's cautionary medical thriller, the uncut version of his 1996 novel Brothers, explores the political, social and religious ramifications of what could be humankind's greatest medical breakthrough-organ regeneration. When biotech lab director Arthur Marshak discovers a way to grow replacement organs and limbs within a patient's own body, the uproar from religious extremists, conservative politicians and sensationalized media coverage threatens to derail the project. When Marshak decides to let a "science court" in Washington, D.C., rule on the validity of human organ regeneration, the subsequent travesty of a tribunal not only imperils his career but also his tempestuous relationship with his estranged brother, who happens to be married to Arthur's ex-fiancée. Even an implausible love triangle and a cast of two-dimensional characters can't dim the forcefulness of Bova's message: the singular significance of science in modern-day society. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A cutting-edge battle of wills over one of today's biggest medical controversies
Bova is best known for science fiction (Orion Among the Stars, 1995, etc.) that displays an unusual awareness of the role of politics in the scientific process. Here, he adapts that awareness to his second contemporary suspenser (after Death Dream, 1994), this involving one Arthur Marschak, head of Grenford biotechnical lab, where a genetic technique for allowing the body to regenerate injured or diseased organs has been discovered. Grenford has become the target of fundamentalist protestors, who believe that Arthur's breakthrough would disrupt God's plan; at the same time, Arthur's brother Jesse, a surgeon who has won humanitarian awards for his work among the poor in a Bronx hospital, opposes the life-extending treatment on the grounds that only the very rich will be able to afford it. The conflict is exacerbated by the fact that Jesse's wife, Julia, broke an engagement to Arthur to marry the doctor; and by Jesse's workaholic neglect of their dying mother. Meanwhile, the corporate ownership of Grenford is trying to fight a hostile takeover and is considering selling off the lab as a means of raising money, while at the same time Arthur convinces friends in Washington to convene a science court where the merits of his technique can be decided from scientific evidence alone. (Much of the novel consists of sensational testimony that, to Arthur's disgust, has nothing to do with the issues.) In the end, the good scientists win a victory of sorts, and the brothers achieve a reconciliationhardly a surprise, but there's plenty of excitement along the way.
An effective mix of science, politics, and family struggle in a novel that should reach a wide audience.
"[A] cautionary but hopeful thriller...modern twists and a genuinely surprising ending."
—Publishers Weekly on The Green Trap
“Ben Bova's latest near-future SF thriller supplies a suspenseful ride and plenty of high-tech hardware as it builds to a climactic confrontation over Washington, D.C.” —Publishers Weekly on Powersat
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Read an Excerpt
Washington: The Capitol
The crowd surging along the barriers that blocked off the Capitol steps was on the verge of turning ugly. It was much larger than the Capitol Police had anticipated and growing bigger by the minute. At first it had been orderly, well organized, mostly women of various ages led by earnest young men in dark suits and narrow ties who shouted their directions through electric bullhorns. Their permits were all in order and they patiently submitted to searches by the special antiterrorism squad and their bomb-sniffing dogs.
The placards they carried were professionally printed in red, white, and blue.
NO MONSTERS! DON’T INTERFERE WITH GOD’S WORK STEM CELL RESEARCH KILLS BABIES MARSHAK IS A BABY KILLER
But now a different sort of crowd was pouring in, men and women, older for the most part, lots of gray hair and bald heads, many in wheelchairs. They were being searched, too, before being allowed across the broad parking area in front of the Capitol building. They had only a few placards among them, many of them hand-lettered.
DON’T CONDEMN ME FOR LIFE TO THIS WHEELCHAIR I NEED A NEW HEART MY BABY IS DYING. PLEASE HELP ME!
The demonstrators marched up and down the parking area outside the Capitol steps, chanting slogans and counterslogans.
"Marshak does the devil’s work!"
"Marshak is a gift from God!"
"Marshak ...Marshak ...Mar-shak ...Mar-shak!"
Now TV news vans were pulling up, like sharks drawn to blood, camera crews focusing on the placards and the marching, chanting, shouting, red-faced demonstrators.
The sky overhead was a clear summer blue, although the morning traffic had already raised a smoggy haze on the streets. Security choppers buzzed overhead; no news media helicopters were allowed near the Capitol. A hot, muggy July morning in the nation’s capital; it would have been a slow Monday, news-wise, except for the demonstration. Knots of picketers began to cluster around each of the camera crews, yelling out their slogans and waggling their placards.
Captain Wally Lewis watched it all from the top of the Capitol steps with a sour frown on his dark fleshy face.
"Better call the Army," he said into his handheld radio.
The little speaker crackled. "You mean you can’t handle a few yahoos?"
Lewis grimaced. "There’s more’n a few." Squinting through the pollution haze past the Supreme Court building up toward the roadblock on Maryland Avenue where incoming buses were stopped and searched, he added, "And more busloads heading this way."
"How many more?"
"Six . . . eight ...must be a dozen I can see from here. Plenty of nuts in with them." Then Lewis added, "Some terrorist outfit could use ’em for cover."
"You see any A-rabs among ’em?"
"Like they’re gonna wear turbans and bushy beards," Lewis grumbled.
"You’re overreacting, Wally."
With the weary head shake of a veteran, Lewis said into his radio, "These people are gonna turn nasty, I tell you. I can feel it in my bones."
"The hearing’s over at the Rayburn Building, ain’t it? Dumb shits don’t even know where it’s happening."
"Don’t matter where the hearings are," said Lewis. "If there’s a riot it’s gonna be right here."
"Who in hell would’ve thought people’d get this worked up over some science stuff?" In the tiny radio speaker his supervisor sounded more surprised than annoyed.
"Yeah," said Lewis. Then he added silently, Who in hell?
Excerpted from The Immoratality Factor by Ben Bova.Copyright © 2009 by Ben Bova.Published in April 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
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