cover image Brothers


Ben Bova. Bantam Books, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-09379-7

Science is on trial and the medical future of the human species is at issue in this latter-day riff on Inherit the Wind. Molecular biologist Arthur Marshak sees his research into the regeneration of diseased or dysfunctional organs as a step toward extending human lifespans. His opponents think otherwise. They include his brother, an inner-city physician who sees Arthur's breakthrough as elitist medicine for the rich; a televangelist who considers Arthur a modern Frankenstein; an anti-science gadfly modeled on media provocateur Jeremy Rifkin; and a cabal of animal-rights activists. Sparks fly when all parties collide in a Washington ""court of science,"" convened to determine whether the scientific community will sanction the experiments despite their devastating side effects on one human subject. Bova (Death Dream) uses multiple points-of-view to skillfully probe the ramifications of a number of hot socio-medical issues, including corporate sponsorship of scientific research, the ethics of animal experimentation and the social responsibilities of the national health care system. The courtroom drama never ignites, however, smothered repeatedly by predictable stereotypes. Arthur is depicted as the classic man of action bound by red tape, while his most vocal opponents are portrayed as self-interested ignoramuses. The large cast of female characters, meanwhile, seems to serve mainly as the scientist's past and future harem. Despite the intelligence and eloquence of its arguments, the narrative ultimately offers just one viewpoint, playing devil's advocate with itself. (Mar.)