Eternal life has long been the holy grail of medical thrillers, the quest for immortality a natural outcome of scientific experimentation and technological research, along with a healthy dollop of imagination. Given such a fertile topic for plot and theory, such authors as Michael Crichton and Robin Cook entered this arena successfully years ago.
In the same vein, Shelly Reuben mines the murky corridors of shadowed laboratories, secret experiments and magical serums to invigorate lifeless cells, at least until such a time as life can be reanimated. This is the world of cryogenics, not as remote in the passage of time as once it was.
Julian Solo is a surgeon in the not-so-distant past, but before the technological advances that have burdened us with perpetually ringing cell phones, personal computers and Blackberrys.
In the hallowed halls of Roosevelt Island Psychiatric Hospital, Julian keeps carefully documented journals, explicit details of his experiments and the important correspondence with expert neurologists that his secretary, Melanie Graice, attends to daily. Julian’s world revolves around his well-guarded laboratory, where he is increasingly fascinated by encouraging research with the hypothalamus and a specific serum that may suspend inanimate life in a cryogenic state.
Even the experiments are put aside, at least temporarily, when Julian falls in love and marries Cynthia Wylie. when his beloved Cynthia is afflicted with what is diagnosed as a progressively debilitating neurological disorder, Julian looks to his serum as a panacea for Cynthia’s terrifying and fatal dilemma.
Unfortunately, his fascination with Cynthia and obsession with developing the serum offend the romantic sensibilities of Melanie Graice, who is blindingly jealous and powerless, a dangerous combination in a scorned woman.
As the novel opens, Cynthia’s son, Mathew, awaits word of his fate, the unwitting victim of circumstances beyond his control. Mathew has faced the truth and found it wanting; he has demanded an accounting of events that have spiraled into a dazzling mix of intentions, good and ill, a potential scientific breakthrough and a flawed experiment.
Weaving an intricate web of dreams come true and nightmares awakened, Reuben ponders the dark side of Solo’s genius, his tampering with fate and loss of scientific perspective. Suddenly the possible becomes grotesque, tainting both science and relationship. The prose is a little tortured, which only emphasizes the unsettling ambiance of this bizarre and prescient tale.