cover image Mutation


Robin Cook / Author Putnam Publishing Group $18.95 (367p) ISBN

Like many of Cook's earlier novels ( Coma , Brain , Fever ), this overheated medical thriller covers a hokey, old-fashioned contrivancethe creation of a mad scientist runs amokwith a veneer of cutting-edge technology. The result resembles an ancient, none-too-scary horror movie played out on modern sets. The author's version of evil genius Dr. Frankenstein is Dr. Victor Frank, a bio-physicist who is driven by his wife Marsha's infertility to create a monster: a son whose genetic structure has been designed to preordain brilliance. Keeping the experiment a secret from his wife, he implants similar embryos in two other women as well. (``When I did it, it seemed like a good idea,'' he claims, in one of the novel's funnier lines.) A decade later, his work goes awry; the other children die mysteriously, and Marsha realizes that something about her smart son isn't quite normalhe has no emotions. (Readers may wonder why, as a child psychologist, she took 10 years to notice.) Cook's characterization is perfunctory even by genre standards, and his initially suspenseful story collapses under the weight of clumsy action scenes and twists that rupture the internal logic of an already shaky premise. Literary Guild main selection. (Jan.)