Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, . . Ace, $21.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-441-00897-1

Forget Dolly the sheep: genetic engineering goes for the gold and takes on historical figures—namely Cleopatra—in a process that is not quite cloning and not quite the channeling of the title of this light fantasy from Nebula Award–winner Scarborough. The geniuses at Nucor company have perfected a computer-based program that can insert DNA from one person into another, thereby giving the second person the personality and thoughts of the first. It even works on the DNA of people long dead—thus the DNA of the famed queen is the target of the archeological quest driving this story. Leda Hubbard, a closet Egyptologist and lover of antiquities whose day job is in forensic sciences, gets involved in a semi-shady assignment for Nucor to find Cleopatra's remains so her DNA can be injected into a wealthy client. Leda doesn't particularly approve of the channeling process, but getting to go on an archeological dig is the thrill of a lifetime. In the course of her adventures, she experiences a natural disaster, gets kidnapped and ends up taking Cleopatra on as an internal passenger. It's an interesting concept, but Scarborough's (The Lady in the Loch, the Acorna series with Anne McCaffrey) scattershot approach—which includes tributes to metaphysics, Egyptology (especially Elizabeth Peters mysteries), gumshoe detectives, channeling and action adventure—never quite allows the story to coalesce into something more than readable and occasionally humorous bits and pieces. Striking jacket art incorporating an ancient Egyptian double helix elegantly conveys the book's theme. (Feb. 5)