In 2027, destroying an embryo is considered first-degree murder. Fertility clinics still exist, giving hope and new life to thousands of infertile families, but they have to pass rigorous inspections by the United States Department of Embryo Preservation. Fail an inspection, and you will be prosecuted.
Brilliant young doctor Arianna Drake seems to be thriving in the spotlight: her small clinic surpasses every government requirement, and its popularity has spikeda sudden, rapid growth that leaves the DEP chief mystified. When he discovers Arianna's radical past as a supporter of an infamous scientist, he sends undercover agent Trent Rowe to investigate her for possible illegal activity.
As Trent is pulled into Arianna's enigmatic world, his own begins to unravel. The secret he finally uncovers will deeply move himand jeopardize them both. With the clock ticking her life away, he finds himself questioning everything he knows to be true, and then must summon the courage to take the greatest risk of all. Nothing less than human lifeand a major scientific breakthroughhang in the balance.
A thought-provoking thriller by debut author Kira Peikoff, Living Proof is a celebration of love and life that cuts to the core of a major cultural debate of our time.
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Product dimensions:||4.00(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
KIRA PEIKOFF has written for New York Daily News, The Orange County Register, Newsday, and New York magazine. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from NYU and is currently working on her second novel.
Read an Excerpt
By Kira Peikoff
Forge BooksCopyright © 2012 Kira Peikoff
All right reserved.
One number flashed in Arianna’s mind: 464. She didn’t have much time.
Dr. Arianna Drake stepped into the deserted hallway, listening.
It was 7:30 A.M.—still too early for the man to arrive. No matter her dread, their appointment could not be adjusted or canceled, even if a patient went into labor before her eyes.
In the silence, Arianna could hear her own pulse drumming in her ears. She hurried toward the locked door at the opposite end of the hall, her heels clicking across the linoleum floor. The corridor was narrow and painted an antiseptic white, made starker by the fluorescent lights overhead. Nothing about the place stood out from any other private clinic in Manhattan; Arianna had made sure of it.
She stopped at the end of the hall, thumbed through her keys, and inserted one into the lock. Pushing the handle down, she leaned into the door and slipped inside.
The lab was neither hot nor cold, and breathing suddenly seemed easier, like stepping into an oxygen tank. On the left side of the room, a black floor-to-ceiling freezer spanned about ten feet wide, with multiple doors opening to different compartments inside. A green digital display across the front read -78°C. It hummed quietly next to a liquid nitrogen supply tank. Along the back of the room was a row of electron microscopes hooked up to computer monitors. Facing the freezer, on the right side of the room, was an incubator set at 37 degrees Celsius.
She yanked one of the freezer doors open. Cool air billowed out. Inside, several hundred slender glass tubes lined the shelves in rows, appearing to contain a hardened red liquid. Murmuring numbers under her breath, Arianna shivered as she counted the tubes, her finger hopping up and down the rows.
A pins-and-needles sensation suddenly surged in her right ankle. The tingling slid into her foot, tickling her veins from the inside out. Afraid of losing count, Arianna pressed on, stressing every fifth number aloud like a musician keeping time. When she at last reached the final tube—number 464—she shut the freezer door and sat down in place, breathing hot air onto her frozen hand. For a moment, she closed her eyes, appreciating her aloneness in the lab and the way everything in it functioned. But her foot was waking from slumber, twitching with little stabs of pain. She pointed her toes and traced a few circles in the air, wincing as the pain dispersed. Was the numbness starting to last longer, she wondered, or was she just more aware of it?
It was quiet enough to hear the seconds tick on her watch: 7:50 A.M. Ten minutes to showtime. She swallowed uneasily, considering whether she had time to count the tubes once more, just in case. But there was no need; she had counted them last night, after hours, and arrived at the same magic number. Better to be sitting at her desk, composed and ready. She breathed in and stood up slowly, avoiding a rush of blood to her head. Before letting herself out, she threw a loving glance at the incubator. Sometimes she wondered if she was capable of forgetting what preciousness lay inside—or whether that knowledge stood like a pillar in her mind, with every other thought swerving around it just to get by.
The hallway was still empty, but she heard the low rumble of Dr. Gavin Ericson’s voice in the office next to hers. It was a comforting sound, the reminder of an ally. She paused at his door and knocked.
“Arianna?” he called.
She opened his door a crack and peered inside, seeing he was on the phone. Gavin and his wife, Emily, who together constituted the rest of the clinic’s staff, were among her closest friends, dating to medical school a decade back.
Everything okay? he mouthed, one hand cupping the phone.
She smiled and nodded. “Good to go,” she whispered, and pulled the door closed.
Inside her own office, she sat down at her desk, straining to hear any sounds from the clinic’s front door. Nothing. She turned to her computer and pressed her index finger to the middle of the screen. After two seconds, the screen lit up and unlocked. A floating message in a box read, WELCOME, ARIANNA. NOVEMBER 1, 2027. 7:57 A.M.
It was impossible to concentrate on real work, and Arianna knew better than to try. She wondered who the man would be this month—but there was no way to know ahead of time. She looked up at her wall, which was covered with pictures of newborns swathed in blue and pink, next to a bulletin board of cards from grateful parents. In the middle of all the pictures hung a flat screen that streamed live video of the entrance to her clinic. Now it showed an empty sidewalk, occasionally a passerby, and a tree-lined street littered with yellow leaves.
For a few tense minutes, she watched—and then, just as she turned back to her computer, she heard it: the creak of the front door. She felt her body stiffen.
Neon red light burst from the screen on the wall, followed by an earsplitting whistle. She swiveled fast to face the screen. Between flashes of red, she could make out a man in a suit. Shielding her eyes, she grabbed a remote from her desk drawer. As she clicked off the alarm, the high-pitched whistle faded, leaving a ringing in her ears.
She stared at the screen, which preserved a snapshot of the intruder. This one was a stout older man with a raised knee, captured the moment he entered the clinic’s waiting room. He wore a black suit and a stern expression, also a gun at his waist. Arianna’s stomach clenched as she recognized him. He was the most senior inspector at the New York Department of Embryo Preservation.
Even though each month it happened the same way—the creak, the alarm, the snapshot—Arianna still felt jolted. She felt even worse for patients who happened to be in the waiting room when a man with a gun swaggered in. But DEP inspectors, as Arianna would explain, had magnetic passes that let them swipe into any fertility clinic whenever they wanted, which set the alarm off every time.
With a sigh, Arianna walked to the waiting room to greet the man. He was standing in the center of the room, looking starkly out of place next to the bright yellow couches and Babytalk magazines. His gaze steadied on Arianna, revealing no emotion as she stepped forward to shake his hand. Pinned to the lapel of his suit was a thin gold cross.
She forced a cheerful smile. “Good morning, Inspector Banks.”
He shook her hand firmly, saying nothing. The man was a professional judger, she thought: too shrewd to show his contempt. So they had one thing in common.
“Follow me,” she said, turning on her heel back to the hallway.
In the narrow corridor, they walked uncomfortably close to each other. His breathing was slightly strained, as if the bulk of his extra weight sat on his lungs. She slowed down so as not to outpace him, keeping her arms crossed over her chest. They passed the five examining rooms that made up her modest clinic, along with the three offices that belonged to her, Dr. Ericson, and Emily, the clinic’s embryologist and nurse. At the end of the hallway, they stopped at the locked white door. Banks still had not said a word.
He took a printed form from his briefcase.
“It was a busy month here for in vitro, wasn’t it,” Arianna said as she put a key into the lock.
“Yes, it was,” he responded, clearing his throat and looking down at the sheet. “Unusually busy. According to the department’s tally, you should have four hundred sixty-four unused embryos this month from thirty-one couples.”
“That’s exactly right,” she said. The state-run Department of Embryo Preservation mandated that all fertility clinics “preserve the soul of every embryo.” In keeping with the law, the department required that clinics report, once a month, the number of embryos left over from every patient’s attempt at in vitro fertilization—a number the inspectors verified with their visits. To ensure accurate reporting, the department periodically conducted random audits, during which it obtained access to a year of the clinic’s original records, complete with all patients’ contact information. Women could always be counted on to remember exactly how many eggs were taken out of their bodies, and how many embryos were later put back in—so their memories often proved to be the department’s greatest resource in corroborating a clinic’s reporting. If even a single unaccounted embryo came to light, it meant serious consequences for the clinic: probation and heavy fines.
But if a destroyed embryo were discovered, then the clinic would be shut down and the doctor charged with first-degree murder.
Six weeks prior, the department had questioned dozens of her own patients in a random audit, but all the women had reported the correct numbers. The clinic passed easily, as Arianna had known it would; her real patients knew nothing.
“Something about fall this year,” she said as she swung open the door to the lab. “It feels like spring, so everybody wants to have babies.” She laughed shrilly. Don’t make small talk, she thought. You don’t know how.
The inspector grunted as he stepped past her into the lab. She followed and closed the door, leaning against it. The oxygenated air filled her lungs like a calming agent as the inspector pulled on a pair of gloves.
“Let’s see here,” he said, opening one of the freezer doors labeled OCTOBER 2027. After the whoosh of cold air dissipated, Banks surveyed the rows of tubes inside and looked over his shoulder at Arianna. “That’s quite a lot you got here.”
Arianna felt her heartbeat do a drum roll. “I know, right?”
Banks turned back to the tubes and painstakingly lifted each one, examining its label as he counted. The label on each tube disclosed several facts: the names of the couple whose egg and sperm had joined in a dish; the date that embryo had been frozen; and its place in the couple’s leftover batch, such as ANNE AND MIKE SMITH, OCT. 10, NUMBER 5/16.
For the in vitro procedure, Arianna would surgically remove about eighteen eggs from a woman’s lifetime supply of three hundred thousand. Then Emily would mix the extracted eggs with sperm, and after five days of growth in the incubator, Arianna would implant only two or three of the strongest embryos back into the woman’s uterus, to lower the chance of multiple births. This routinely left about fifteen excess embryos per couple to be frozen, suspended in the first stages of growth forever.
Arianna waited as Banks counted the October flasks; he paused after each one to mark another tally on his sheet. The minutes dragged on. When he finally reached number 464, she had to keep herself from noticeably exhaling.
“Perfect,” she said, gripping the door’s handle behind her.
“Let me count those one more time to make sure.”
Her stomach dropped; she didn’t know how much longer she could stand to be trapped there, watching him.
“Of course,” she managed. “Take your time.”
Monotonous counting ensued. She stood by, willing herself not to fiddle or twitch. At least his rounded back was turned. What was he thinking, she wondered, when he cradled the flasks in his hands? As the embryos’ legal guardian, was he overcome with a desire to protect them? Or did he enjoy the power he held over helpless lives, including her own?
“And that, again, makes four sixty-four,” he said at last, turning around to face her. “Now let’s make sure you’re preserving them properly.”
She smiled. “Which ones would you like to see?”
“I would like to see all of them. But unfortunately, I only have time for a sample. Let’s see these.”
He turned to the flasks and randomly pointed to several dozen of them. Arianna placed each one carefully on a tray and carried it to the electron microscopes in the back of the room. One by one, she put the flasks under a microscope, and a camera underneath captured and transferred the images to the adjacent computer screen. Almost immediately, pictures showed up of circles with vague clumps of cells inside. The inspector squinted at the images, nodding after each one.
“Fine,” he announced after scrutinizing all the images. “You can put them back now.”
He scribbled his signature on the form as she eagerly replaced all the tubes in the freezer. Sweat dribbled onto her upper lip, salty and warm. She licked it away before he could notice any sign of nervousness.
She thought he was walking back to the door when he paused next to the incubator, grabbed the chrome handle, and pulled it open. Arianna sucked in a silent breath; that wasn’t part of the protocol.
Banks peered at tiny petri dishes carefully spaced on the shelves under heat lamps. On the bottom shelf, a cluster of dishes was pushed to one side, under a label marked only with a sad face.
“How are they doing so far?” he asked with a general wave toward the dishes.
“It varies,” she said. “They’re still less than four days old. We don’t know which of them we’ll use yet.”
“Then what about those?” He frowned, pointing to the cluster of dishes under the sad face.
“Oh, those.” She winced. “Those just aren’t doing well. They’ll likely be frozen. We need to differentiate the strong ones from the weak.”
Banks nodded. “I assume those will count for November’s EUEs, then.”
Extra-uterine embryos—the politically correct term for “leftovers.”
“Yes.” Don’t flinch, she willed herself.
He eyed her for a moment. Indifference glazed across her face.
He looked down at his form. “Well, none are missing. They look to be properly preserved. Sign here.”
She took the paper from him that was headed in bold, NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF EMBRYO PRESERVATION, and signed under her clinic’s name—WASHINGTON SQUARE CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE—next to the number 464.
“Good, so we’ll see you next month,” she said, turning to open the door. She stepped out into the hallway and exhaled shakily, as if she had just stumbled off a carnival ride.
“Me or one of my colleagues,” he replied.
“I’ll show you out,” she said, not wanting to leave him alone in her clinic for a second. She walked briskly back to the waiting room as he trailed a step behind. Saying good-bye always felt like an awkward moment to her. Was she supposed to thank him? Act gracious for the interruption that threatened to undermine her life’s biggest project?
In the waiting room, a slender woman with auburn curls was sitting on the couch, drumming her fingers on her lap. She grew still when she saw the inspector enter the room with Arianna.
“Hello!” Arianna exclaimed, and then, remembering, evened her tone. “I’ll be with you in a moment, ma’am.”
Turning back to the inspector, she nodded and casually extended her arm toward the front door. “Have a good day,” she said.
He muttered, “Same to you,” striding to the door. She watched it swing open and slam. And just like that, she thought, they were safe for another month.
With a giant grin, she turned to the woman on the couch, who sprang up and embraced her.
Arianna hugged her tightly. “Thank you so much, Meg.”
“Of course,” Megan said, stepping back. “But first I want to know: How the hell do you stand that guy?”
Arianna shook her head. “It’s easier if I pretend he’s just a handyman coming around for a checkup.”
“With a gun?”
“So how are the good souls doing?”
“Pretty nippy,” Arianna said with a smile. “But they’re not lonely, that’s for sure.”
Back in her office with the door shut, Arianna thought how much they resembled each other. Both were tall, thin, and pale, thanks to their grandfather’s side of the family. They shared thick hair, though Arianna’s was nearly black. And unusual dark blue eyes. As kids, they used to pretend to be sisters—each wanting a sibling that never came. But it didn’t matter: to be cousins, growing up side by side, was enough to give each the companionship she craved, without the rivalry. Still, being part of a small family had its downsides: With Arianna’s parents dead, Megan’s living far away, and neither woman yet married, they were each other’s Thanksgiving gatherings, Christmas mornings, and faithful standbys through every difficult time when family was indispensable—like now.
As soon as they sat down, Megan’s face contorted with worry, as if she suddenly remembered why she was there. She stared at Arianna with the same determined hope as any other woman about to undergo ovary stimulation. “I want to think my eggs will help.”
Arianna reached across the desk and took her hand. “They will.”
“But what if they don’t? What if they just turn into more failed attempts?”
Arianna shook her head. “Whatever happens, it won’t be a complete failure. The whole thing is trial and error, so we need all those errors to get us closer to the answer.”
Megan sat back with a frown. “Do you—do you think they’re getting closer?”
Arianna looked away. “You know I would tell you.”
“And there’s nothing else I can do?”
“Meg, you’re doing plenty. More than I could ever ask for.” Arianna picked up a chart that lay next to her computer, feeling the steeliness of her professional training cut through her own fear. “All your vitals look good. We can get started if you’re ready.”
Megan grimaced, running her hands through her hair the way she often did when she was nervous. “You know how I get around needles. It’s so embarrassing.”
An injection of follicle-stimulating hormone into Megan’s rear once a day for ten days would make her ovaries produce about eighteen eggs for the month, instead of the usual one. Then Arianna planned to surgically remove all those eggs, as she did for any patient undergoing in vitro. Except this one had no child in mind.
Arianna smiled. “It will barely even sting, you big baby. Just think about me doing C-sections all day long.”
“But a shot every day for ten days?” A sobering thought must have entered Megan’s mind then, because her expression changed. “It’s fine. I can do this.”
“I know you can, sweetie. You’ll do great. Just imagine how you’re going to spend the five grand.”
Megan glared at her. “It’s insulting that you’re paying me.”
“That’s ridiculous. I’d pay more if I could.”
“And you promise no one’s going to arrest me, right?”
Arianna flashed her a conspiratorial grin. “What for? You’re just a bighearted egg donor.”
“What about—?” Megan’s voice lowered. “What about all the other donors? You trust them all right?”
“Completely. I handpicked every single one of them. No woman who puts her body on the line for science has any interest in destroying it.”
Megan nodded and then sighed. “Let’s get the damn shot over with already. I can’t stand the anticipation.”
Arianna smiled, thinking of the childhood nicknames their family had fondly given them: the worrier and the warrior. The irony struck her that their old roles still had not changed. Yet something between them had evaporated over the last few months, something precious, and just when they needed it most: lightness.
“First things first,” Arianna said as she stood up.
Megan groaned. “What?”
“You have to pick out the father,” she deadpanned.
“We have a wide collection of donated sperm on hand from every race, age, creed, you name it. Widens the gene pool for the research. You can flip through the book and decide who you think your eggs would like best.”
Megan laughed in spite of herself. “If I didn’t know you that well, Arianna, I’d think you might be having fun with this.”
Arianna grinned. She was about to respond, determined to regain the tone of their old banter, when she felt herself inadvertently sway. Her office walls rolled into one another with quickening momentum as the pictures of newborns blurred around her, a spinning spread of faces and colors. Shutting her eyes, she sank to her knees in front of her desk and thrust one palm onto the ground. Her forehead dropped to the floor, sweat against cold. She was anchored. With her eyes closed and her body still, the spinning room began to slow down.
“Oh, Christ.” Megan’s voice hovered somewhere above her head. “Perfect timing. Do you need anything?”
Arianna didn’t dare shake her head, just as the world was coming to a halt around her. “Time,” she murmured into the floor.
She felt Megan’s hand stroking her hair. “Okay. Take your time. You know I’m in no rush.”
Arianna pressed her forehead harder into the ground, as if to prove the stability her senses refused to accept. She heard Megan stand up next to her.
“I’ll just go out and run an errand. Call me when you’re ready.”
“’Kay,” Arianna muttered. Around anyone else, she would have been mortified. At least, she thought, Megan knew enough not to make a fuss. Her footsteps fell away, and then the door opened and shut. Arianna breathed in, grateful to suffer alone.
* * *
Megan stepped outside onto Washington Square South. In her mind, she replayed the frightening way Arianna had just sunk to the floor like a dummy. What if she were really in trouble?
But she did what Arianna had long ago instructed: walked away. “Just let me be,” Arianna told her sternly the first time it happened in her presence. “I don’t need any help.”
Megan marveled at her bravery: How could she handle so much, so well? It just reminded her why she had looked up to her fearless cousin since childhood, when Arianna had ridden her bicycle without hands, approached popular boys she liked, dragged Megan onto her first upside-down roller coaster. Nothing ever seemed to faze her, while even as an adult, Megan panicked over the slightest medical problem. And now—
“Excuse me,” came a man’s voice behind her.
Megan turned around, holding her purse close to her body. The man looked a little older than she, in his mid-thirties. He wore faded jeans and a button-down white shirt and held a small notepad. A Yankees baseball cap covered his face in shadow, and when she looked at him, she understood why he wore it. Orange and brown freckles dotted his face with the frequency of pores; they lent him a juvenile quality that made him seem harmless.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“I hope so,” he said with a tentative smile. “I’m actually a reporter on the health beat. My name’s Jed. I noticed you walk out of the fertility clinic right there, and I was wondering if I could ask you about it for a minute.”
Megan’s brow knotted. “Ask me about what?”
“Well, for starters, are you a patient at the clinic?”
“I am.” And how is that your business? she almost snapped, but didn’t.
“What made you choose to go there, out of all the clinics in the city?”
She stared at him. “Excuse me?”
“Sorry to be nosy,” he said, but his tone was urgent.
“Are you doing a survey or something?” she asked. I’m a patient, she thought. I’m supposed to want a baby.
“A survey? Kind of. You could say that. I’m trying to figure something out.”
“Well,” she said, “I decided to go there because I got a great recommendation about the doctor. What are you trying to figure out exactly?”
“I’ll tell you,” he said, stepping closer. “See, I got this tip that a bunch more women than usual are going to this one clinic all of a sudden. It’s such a small clinic, too. Maybe my mind’s overactive, but I thought it sounded like there might be a story there. See if the patients know something I don’t.”
“I see. Where’d you hear that?”
He shrugged with polished nonchalance. “A tip from a source. So, have you noticed anything? Off the record.”
Megan shook her head and tried to look puzzled. “I don’t know anything about that. But I will tell you that the doctors there are really top-notch, even though the clinic’s small. I’ve already recommended them to a lot of friends, and I’m sure others are doing the same. What kind of story are you doing?”
“I don’t know. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
“Who do you write for?”
“I’m a freelancer. Got to depend on my own instincts to find stories. What do you do?”
“I’m in real estate. And I’m sure there’s lots more interesting things happening in New York City,” she said, and then added, “Good luck,” for fear of seeming rude.
She started to fish her sunglasses out of her purse. When she found them, he was still standing there.
“You couldn’t even point me in the right direction, at least?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Sorry, I don’t have a clue what you mean,” she replied, and crossed the street toward Washington Square Park. Don’t run, she thought. Don’t look back, and don’t touch your phone yet. She ambled through the park, forcing herself to concentrate on the sunset-orange trees, the park’s glorious fountain, and a nearby acrobat who had drawn an impressive crowd. She eased among the chanting people, pretending to watch the man doing backflips over a row of tin cans. When she had inched into the first layer of people, she knew the reporter could no longer see her, so she withdrew her cell phone from her purse and called Arianna.
It rang twice before she picked up. “Hey, I’m okay now—”
“Arianna, I think somebody might know something.”
Copyright © 2012 by Kira Peikoff
Excerpted from Living Proof by Kira Peikoff Copyright © 2012 by Kira Peikoff. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Interesting plot, science vs religion but the book was disappointing and too predictable.
Kira demonstrated a wonderful talent for writing in her own way. However, I fail to see how Kira could be considered one of Ayn's successors. Ayn Rand had an original spirit that eventually started her own school of thought. Kira all to often leaves the reader with the impression that she was following a preconcieved formula and not creating her own equation. It is obvious Kira's attempt at excellence is nothing mors then a plea of acceptance from her father. Compared to some other recently written fictions it was a good way to pass time but nothing more.
What a great debut novel! I really enjoyed the heroic characters, and the plot was suspenseful. Also, I find it a pertinent reminder of the irrational repression of life-saving and life promoting scientific research. Ms. Peikoff, you have gained a fan who is looking forward to your next novel!
Kira Peikoff's first book, like any story destined to endure, brings the reader into a previously unexperienced world. This world exists in our own. It is inhabited, in focus, by people of integrity and conviction. Floaters happen but vanish. Peikoff writes with the clarity and pace of Alan Furst, but her world is not separated from ours by a continent and seven decades of hindsight. The conflict is as intense as in any of Alan Furst's books, but it is here, in a near-future Manhattan. The hidden apocalyptic struggle of the present is all the sharper for being set in a world with which the reader is intimate. The unburnished surfaces of a first book are there, but quickly vanish from sight. I now have one more writer, to look more forward to reading with every book.
Great first book! I really liked this book. It got my interest from the start and I found it difficult to put down. Although the story was a bit predictable, it was suspenseful and thought provoking. I would definitely recommend it! I am looking forward to her next book.
Living Proof is not only a book that will keep your attention and have you staying up half the night. It's also a very important and timely book, due to the ongoing debates on embryonic stem cell research. Living Proof makes the moral case for why this research is desperately needed, and why the government and religious communities have no right to stop it. Not only that, but it also presents the other side of the debate in a fair and accurate way. It gives a picture of what our world could be, in the near future, if we do not stand up for our right to have this important research done to save and improve millions of lives; because the people who would stop it in this book, are out there right now, doing everything they can to undermine it based on their religious convictions. But aside from having a great moral message, Living Proof also has engaging and interesting characters and a strong plot, and you'll always want to know what will happen next. Do yourself a favor and read this book, and then pass it along to relatives and friends (or buy them a copy). You won't be sorry.
Living Proof is a very good read in which the clash between science and religion is dramatized in the lives of the characters. Set in a not too distant New York City, one gets the feeling that it's already happening. The page-turning pace keeps you riveted right up until the end. I liked reading the book but for additional enjoyment I purchased the audio book, which is narrated faithfully. I look forward to Kira Peikoff's next novel.
This story is extraordinarily engaging and compelling. It takes an issue (embryonic stem cell research & treatments) that is often the subject of theoretical political debate, and brings the issue to life with a dramatic plot that expands in detail on the dictatorial government actions that would follow in practice from a formal, legal codification of the principle that life begins at conception. The political system of the year 2027 is a kind of theocratic fascism, in which the events of the plot unfold. One sees the senseless persecution of characters who are subject to the cruel oppression of government agencies such as the Department of Embryo Protection (DEP) and the Department of Embryo and Fetus Protection (DEFP). The reader becomes enraged upon seeing the blind fanaticism of the devout government agents who act to protect embryos -- five day old clusters of undifferentiated cells that merely have the *potential* to become people -- at the expense of threatening to destroy the lives of *actual* people such as the heroine, Arianna Drake, who desperately fights to save her own life as the villainous Agent Dopp of the DEP fights with equal fervor to prevent her from doing so. Ms. Peikoff shows us, through the logical unfolding of events, the deadly senselessness of an irrational mystic creed imposed by force on man, who by his nature must depend on reason to survive. She also shows us an inspiring picture of the heroism and unyielding persuit of values that rational men (and women) are capable of. And she does this while telling a damn good story with a well integrated plot and interesting characters. I'm now a Kira Peikoff fan and I can't wait to read her next book.
I picked up this book expecting to read for a few minutes on my lunch break- instead I ended up reading it in one sitting! The author presents two sides of this complex and contentious issue with integrity, before bringing the story to a close through carefully presented logical reasoning. The writing style is thrilling, easy to read and fast paced, without sacrificing rich description and fully developed characters. It is truly a gem.
In the close future stem-cell research is considered ultimate evil by the US government, and there are departments set up to monitor IVF as well as follow women throughout pregnancy to ensure they're falling in line and breeding as they should. One scientist, Arianna Drake, is breaking the rules, and religious zealot Trent Rowe is sent to find evidence.There are a lot of hard and fascinating issues presented and discussed in this book. Not just stem-cell research but the whole religion versus science debate. It takes place in a future where things have changed to be pretty much my nightmare, so that was affecting. Unfortunately these changes weren't given a lot of attention as to their cause. It was hard to believe that in such a short time so much had degraded. Maybe that's my naivity, but since the characters seemed defined their opinions on these issues it was very important that I could believe it all. I'm not sure I did.The attention paid to the issues and the nightmarish future New York was well researched and intense. It's just too bad that the characters were so often loathsome. I didn't follow Trent on his journey of self-realization, because where he started was so bizarre. I didn't understand how someone who could understand things later could start out so backwards. And I didn't understand why Arianna could ever believe him, or laugh along with his "Men are just stronger, ha ha," jokes, or continue to talk about things she loved when it was obvious he refused to join the conversations. I didn't understand their relationship at all, and since it was so integral I didn't enjoy the book.
"What man worships...is indicative of his very essence, for reverence is man's deepest form of love, one which holds the key to his soul."This passage holds the key to the entire novel, and how to understand the characters. The first half of the novel mainly focuses on the one character who changes fundamentally in this respect, as he tries to solve the mystery of what the other main character worships and simultaneously begins to undergo a profound change in his own deepest values. At first, I wanted the book to focus more on the other character earlier on, but came to appreciate what the author was doing.Unfortunately, when the crucial moment comes it is not entirely convincing. She just talks rather abstractly about life and faith for a couple of paragraphs, and he says, "Everything you say makes perfect sense," and he's completely convinced and that's that. It's all too obvious that the author was not raised to be and has never been religious and has no idea what that's like. Not that this kind of fiction should be naturalistic, but for such a critical plot point to be convincing it at least needs to be somewhat realistic.But after that the book gets back on track and picks up more and more until it reaches its excellent climax and conclusion. On the whole, a very good first novel. I'll be looking forward to her next.
In the not so distant future embryonic stem cell research has been outlawed and the Department of Embryo Preservation will charge anyone who destroys an embryo with murder. Fertility clinics are subject to random inspections and huge government oversight. Arianna, a fertility doctor, has recently experienced a surge in her patient numbers and the DEP is highly suspicious. They send an undercover agent, Trent, in to find out what is really going on. However, he falls for the charming doctor and finds himself questioning his life's work and religion.Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was very well written and researched. I realize that the whole book was a set-up between the religious fundamentals and scientists, but after a while I got so tired of reading bible verses and religious rhetoric. I don't know that the book would have worked as well without the rhetoric but it took away from my enjoyment of the story. I think that any pro-choice, pro-stem cell research person will enjoy this book and appreciate the game of what-if the author is playing.
After reading "Living Proof," it's clear debut author Kira Peikoff has no fear of jumping into controversy. Peikoff's book is a well-written and compelling thriller that boldly examines some of the most contentious medical, legal and philosophical issues confronting us today. Arianna Drake, a brilliant young doctor specializing in infertility treatment, runs a clinic that attracts unwanted and potentially catastrophic scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Embryo Preservation. Trent Rowe, the DEP agent tasked to gather evidence sufficient to shut down Drake's clinic and end her career with imprisonment, instead finds himself allured by Drake despite her past radicalism, and the illness that threatens to take her life very soon. The more Rowe learns about Drake's life and her illegal but miraculous work, the less sure he is of things he took for granted before meeting her. With lives and an unprecedented medical breakthrough on the line, Drake and Rowe find themselves racing time and facing danger, ruin and death against the backdrop of one of today's prevalent sociocultural conflicts. The story's set 15 years from now, but Peikoff's plot could spring from fiction to fact far sooner than that.
Too long but kept my interest.
I found this book to be very thought provoking and well written.
Good first novel. The viewpoint is, as one reviewer said, "Not for Christians," as it presents the Christian view that life begins at conception, as not only NOT "pro-life," but actually ANTI-life. Author has a challenge to come up with an equally engaging premise for a future novel, which I would definitely read.
I am in the court of those who are Ayn Rand fans but did not love this book. The premise of the book was interesting, but the execution could have been more precise. The book as a whole was overwritten, and would have been better had it been shorter. George Orwell’s 1984, for instance, tells a similar, fuller story in fewer pages. The religious monologues and the “us vs. them” concept were repeated throughout. The passages showing Trent following Arianna and lying to his boss could have been fewer in number, and Trent’s inner conflict also took up much of the story, which did bog it down some. The dramatic, redundant emphasis on the DEP trying to crack down on Arianna only began to speed up towards the end of the story. The fate of the DEP is not defined, despite the attention given to the political deals struck to keep it alive. A more conclusive ending would have been better as well, as it is not known where the protagonists can go next to be safe. The author vacillates between a colloquial writing style and that of Ayn Rand. It is entirely possible to demonstrate the same philosophy using one’s own style of writing, but that did not fully come through here. The parts that did resemble Ayn Rand’s formal style appeared to be contrived. When the writing did not resemble Ayn Rand’s, it contained some unnecessary small talk between characters, as well as swearing (including the F-word) sprinkled throughout the book. Dr. Peikoff did answer a question in one of his podcasts, saying that profanity is “a mere spewing of anger,” which was why Ayn Rand did not write using profanity. Although I could sympathize with their frustration towards the government bureaucrats, I was surprised to see that the protagonists would speak this way. I could not agree with the advanced praise that the author was “the next Ayn Rand.” The scientific/medical content showed that the author did do background research for the story, although the shorthand term “oligos” was used in lieu of oligodendrocytes, when it actually stands for oligonucleotides. As with the repetitive passages, the medical content could have been less in amount and woven throughout, instead of appearing as multi-paragraph explanations. It gave a textbook feel, and a sense of overly proving to the reader that the background research for the story had in fact been done. There were some misused words, typos, and grammatical issues (subject-verb agreement, who vs. whom) that stuck out. The similes and metaphors were frequent, and became somewhat annoying. Arianna was quite naïve and foolish to trust and fall in love with Trent so quickly, when she had been covering up an illegal lab. The falling out and re-establishing of trust between them after Trent’s confession happened too quickly, but this was because the confession took place so late in the story. I would have liked to see Arianna give the DEP inspector a piece of her mind, as Dagny of Atlas Shrugged did with the villains, rather than quietly accommodate his presence at her clinic. Also, Sam’s romantic feelings for Arianna came up suddenly out of nowhere in the latter portion of the book, and although it did not kill the storyline, it did appear to be crammed in. I am glad I read the book so that I could see for myself what it was. I did not hate it; however, I am also glad I borrowed a library copy, because after having read it, I do not feel strongly enough about it to purchase my own copy.
I have to say I went into this book not really sure what to expect. I was hoping it wasn't going to be too preachy and I was disappointed. Peikoff did a great job of showing both sides of this issue and in such an engaging way. She told an amazing story with characters that I found myself rooting for to come out on top. This book was truly a great read and like nothing I have read lately. We start this book out by meeting Arianna and learning that she is a fertility doctor. I immediately picked up on how strong she was and how brilliant she was. Arianna is in the lab waiting on the routine DEP inspector to come in and make sure everything is up to par. You can tell she is nervous about something and I found myself caught up in it also wondering what she was hiding. The secret she was hiding wasn't what I expected and had me so excited. Arianna is secretly using some of the embryos to use to make clones so that she can further her research. The world building in this book was amazing as it wasn't hard at all to imagine living in this time. I could see the government putting these regulations in place and monitoring the clinics. The bigger question Peikoff brought out in this book was if it was ok. Should the government have that type of control and should people like Arianna be fighting against it. I loved her meeting Trent and turning everything he thought he knew on his head. It was truly amazing to see how his growing love for Arianna made him question what he has always thought was right. Arianna and Trent have to both deal with different things and try to race against the clock to try to keep Arianna alive. I loved the characters of Megan who was Arianna's cousin and Sam who was the another scientist trying to further their research. Megan was the great family support that Arianna needed and Sam was like a father figure. He had a bit of a mad scientist vibe about him and I felt sorry for him at times. He seemed so alone and aloof. They all worked together so well to try to come to the common goal. Peikoff wrote an amazing story with great plot twists and turns throughout. I loved her ability to put both sides of this story out there without making it too preachy or scientific. The story flowed and was a read I couldn't put down. I was enthralled with it and I loved how Peikoff was afraid to push the boundaries and take risks. It made for a great read because of it. I highly recommend this book to others.
This is not a book I would pay for. Premise is interesting – set about 15 years in the future, there is a government ban on stem cell research and a police force to back it up. However, the promise of the premise is never fulfilled. A priest who left the church for love, cliché, is now the zealous head of that police force and trying to atone for leaving the church, cliché. The plucky brave researchers, cliché, defy the ban to save one of their own from MS, ad nauseum. The only interesting points, only hinted, is the pre-natal care mandated by the state to make sure each embryo becomes a full-term baby leading to things like a fine for one glass of champagne. The story shows the danger of zealots but all in all, pretty formulaic. Pretty disappointed. Received free copy for review.
The first chapters of the book were very intriguing but later on when it came to religion vs science the author let science win however i was hoping it would meet somewhere in the middle..sorry ill have to give this one 2stars.
Miss Peikoff acknowledges her father in the credits because he persuaded her to continue the story when she had given up. The story is written consciously with snippets of Ayn Rand’s style that do not fit the style of the author. The theme is underdeveloped, lacks purpose, has floating abstractions, and is verbose. The author should study Fiction Writing by Ayn Rand; after all she has access to the material. It seemed as if she had a whim to write a story, never really took the means seriously, and put more value on becoming a published author than in writing a good story.