cover image The Baby Merchant

The Baby Merchant

Kit Reed, . . Tor, $24.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-7653-1550-2

Set in an all-too-plausible future world with a falling birth rate, closed borders and lengthy adoption waiting lists, Reed's provocative SF novel explores the lengths desperate people will go to become parents. Jake Zorn and Maury Bayless, a childless couple in their 40s, approach Tom Starbird, a go-to man for high-end illicit "adoptions," but Jake, a newsman, isn't satisfied to just do business. If Starbird doesn't get them a baby, Jake threatens to not only ruin Starbird but also broadcast a shattering exposé about Starbird's mother, an unstable poet. Starbird, forced to agree, marks the baby of a pregnant artist, Sasha Egan, who lives in a home for unwed mothers. But Sasha flees the home and lays low, forcing Starbird to revise his plans. The inevitable clash among Sasha, Starbird and Jake forces each to rethink his or her motives. Reed (Thinner Than Thou ) succeeds in making her nastier characters appear more misguided than evil, but the long sections from the protagonists' different points-of-view, all written in the same style, tend to blur together. (June)