By Kelley Eskridge
By Camille DeAngelis
Crown / 368 pages / $24
In the late 1980s, British novelist Maureen Duffy wrote a compelling series, The Gor Saga, in which cloning took center stage. These works appeared soon after the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in Britain. Duffy's works were later turned into a highly successful mini-series for the British Broadcasting Corp. and shown in the United States on PBS. The unsettling world of cloning, mixed species and the other repugnant possibilities wrought by playing too hard in the laboratory a la Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein gave readers and viewers tremendous pause.
Today cloning is a reality: We have Dolly the sheep and her descendants - and antecedents, for that matter. And we have Mary. Mary is the creature Lucy Morrigan, a genetic researcher whose biological and academic clocks are ticking sonorously, clones in her father's basement laboratory. She meant to create a baby for herself and her boyfriend, Gray, but things go awry, as they often do in basement laboratories in old family mansions.
Lucy inseminates herself with the DNA she leaches from a piece of bloodstained apron she finds in the attic, an apron belonging to her grandmother, Mary. But instead of the baby the infertile Lucy yearns for, she gets the fully grown adult Mary - her grandmother at 22 years old.
Soon Mary wants her own life back - the curse of cloned creatures - and wants Lucy to clone her husband, too. There are some other creepy folks who find out about Lucy's experiments, which threatens to ruin everything.
Shelley and Duffy resonate throughout DeAngelis' very well-written and highly imaginative work of speculative fiction, and readers will no doubt shudder at the thought that such experiments are not so far outside the realms of reality, let alone science. DeAngelis tackles ethics, love, family and the parameters of each in this highly readable novel.