cover image The Colony

The Colony

Jillian Weise, . . Soft Skull, $15.95 (338pp) ISBN 978-1-5937-6267-4

Ambitious, provocative, and wildly inventive, this debut novel from Texan poet Weise features sharp North Carolinian Anne Hatley, born with a genetic mutation that stunted her bone growth and left her with just one leg. In 2015, 25-year-old Anne (sporting a robotic limb) joins four others with gene deficiencies at the Colony, a Long Island research station, where for three months the five colonists will be paid to stay on site and provide stem cells for research efforts headed by geneticist Engel Deeter (whom Anne refers to as “The Gee”). With her free time, Anne keeps in touch with her boyfriend back home in Durham, gets to know her fellow colonists (including a country-singing bartender with the suicide gene), and wonders over the possibility of new treatments—in particular, her ambivalence over the opportunity to grow a flesh-and-bone leg. Though wry and funny, with thoughtful points about the relationship between modern-day gene therapy and 19th-century eugenics, Weise’s narrator often keeps the reader at a distance, and the cleverly fragmented structure falters under the weight of its denouement. (Mar.)