Michael Crichton. HarperCollins, $27.95 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-06-087298-4
Bestseller Crichton (Jurassic Park) once again focuses on genetic engineering in his cerebral new thriller, though the science involved is a lot less far-fetched than creating dinosaurs from DNA. In an ambitious effort to show what's wrong with the U.S.'s current handling of gene patents and with the laws governing human tissues, the author interweaves many plot strands, one involving a California researcher, Henry Kendall, who has mixed human and chimp DNA while working at NIH. Kendall produces an intelligent hybrid whom he rescues from the government and tries to pass off as a fully human child. Some readers may be disappointed by the relative lack of action, the lame attempts to lighten the mood with humor (especially centering on an unusually bright parrot named Gerard), and the contrived convergence of the main characters toward the end. Still, few can match Crichton in crafting page-turners with intellectual substance, and his opinions this time are less likely to create a firestorm than his controversial take on global warming in 2004's State of Fear.
Reviewed on: 12/04/2006