Menachem""s Seed

Carl Djerassi, Author, Djerassi, Author
Carl Djerassi, Author, Djerassi, Author University of Georgia Press $21.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-8203-1925-4
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-14-027794-4
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""I try to make comprehensible the culture and behavior of scientists,"" writes Djerassi (Cantor's Dilemma; The Bourbaki Gambit) in the preface to the third novel in his ""science-in-fiction"" tetralogy. And Djerassi, known as the ""Father of the Pill,"" means it--sort of. In this tale of Middle East intrigue and artificial insemination, we get scientists at high-powered dinners and top-secret policy discussions, scientists on junkets to Vienna and London and Paris, scientists in mixed saunas full of other scientists. We even get scientists in love: ""He had reached, patiently but surely, the intended objective: Melanie's mons veneris."" These are scientists as imagined by Judith Kranz, The Revenge of the Nerds as written by Danielle Steel--but Djerassi doesn't show any flair for bringing characters or situations to life. The novel's one Frenchman chain smokes and speaks in unrelenting Gallicisms: he's the Funny European. The one Palestinian (a negotiator) loses his temper and sputters about ""You Jews, who control the media"": he's the Arab Foil. And the Hero, an open-necked, terminally menschlich Israeli military advisor, makes even these stereotypes look interesting and unpredictable. Those most likely to appreciate his glorified technocrats are scientists themselves (a few of whom make cameo appearances in the book). As fictional thinking about technology, however, Djerassi's work pales in comparison to that of, say, Richard Powers and Jonathan Franzen. This petri-fying tale of sluggish sperm and pre-Camp David detente is all-too-haphazardly conceived. (Sept.)
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