Cover image for The experiment
The experiment
Darnton, John.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, [1999]

Physical Description:
421 pages ; 24 cm
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library

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With the brilliant combination of cutting-edge science and nerve-jangling suspense that made his first novel,Neanderthal, a major bestseller, John Darnton returns with The Experiment. On a remote island off theSoutheastern coast, a young man named Skyler sees his friends vanish one by one. In a small New York town,a journalist observes a corpse with its fingerprints burned off. In New York City, an expert on twins stumblesupon a case that hits stunningly close to home for her. Soon, all three come together on the trail of a scientificexperiment more audacious than they could have conceived--and so secret that none of them may be allowed tosurvive.

Author Notes

John Darnton is culture editor for The New York Times. He lives in New York.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Darnton begins the successor to Neanderthal (1996), his best-selling maiden effort, with another intriguing, swift-paced yarn. On an island off Georgia, the Elder Physicians raise and experiment on the "jimminies." Skyler, Raisin, and Julia, three of the most alert and adventurous jimminies, are investigating what is going on in the Big House, on the rest of the island, and in the island's small Gullah community. Their forays net accurate and innacurate information and bring down some discipline on them from the Orderlies. Meanwhile, on the continent, New York Mirror reporter (and novelist) Jude Harley and twins researcher Tizzie Tierney unwittingly become involved with the Institute for Research in Human Longevity, the loosely knit group behind the programs on the island. After Raisin and Julia are killed, Skyler stows away on the island's airplane and escapes when it lands in Valdosta, Georgia. A newspaper clipping about Jude provokes Skyler to head for New York, where things start getting messy. Entering the action, the FBI splits in two, one faction supporting the institute, the other opposing it. Eventually, cloning is unveiled, done to provide spare parts, but spare parts aren't enough to guarantee long life. So what is? Darnton raises questions of considerable contemporary interest (e.g., Are human clones persons? Who has the right to clone humans?) while providing a first-rate read. --William Beatty

Publisher's Weekly Review

The author of Neanderthal returns with a second science-drenched thriller that's as au courant as you'd expect from a veteran New York Times man (Darnton is that paper's cultural news editor). The novel is timely because it concerns human cloning; unfortunately, its plot is every bit as contrived as that scientific sleight of hand. Initially, the narrative follows two young men separately: Skyler lives on an isolated island off Georgia, on an estate called the Lab, where he has been raised according to strict dictates (enforced by hulking Orderlies) along with other boys and girls. Occasionally, a kid is taken away for medical work, or turns up dead. Now Skyler finds his girlfriend, Julia, eviscerated in the Lab's operating room, and escapes the island. At the same time, Jude Harley, a Manhattan tabloid reporter, is assigned a piece on identical twins. His main interview subjectÄand future bedmateÄis twin-researcher Tizzie Tierney. Down South, meanwhile, Skyler sees a photo of Jude, and tracks him down. Legwork and labwork point to Skyler being Jude's clone; Julia, it seems, was Tizzie's clone. But how, and why? Jude, Skyler and Tizzie undertake a cross-country hunt for clues, all the while hunted in turn not only by the Orderlies but by a renegade FBI faction involved in the grand conspiracy behind all the fuss. Darnton is a prize-winning reporter (including a Pulitzer), and that expertise shows in his careful employment of scientific detail about twins and cloning. His novelist's skills are less honed. The story is driven not by character, but by plot, which has a strung-out feel, featuring one chase or killing or crisis after another. Darnton's prose is impeccable but flat, while the book's climax, involving a mad doctor, is howlingly melodramatic. This novel may reflect today's news, but Ira Levin wrote a much snappier cloning thriller, The Boys from Brazil, more than 20 years ago. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The Experiment is based on an interesting premise and raises some important moral questions, but it is developed in an inconsistent and erratic manner that relies heavily on unrealistic coincidence. The explanation of scientific and pseudoscientific issues ranges from concise and interesting to ponderous and boring; the dialog is unrealistic and stilted; and the action sequences can be exciting but are more often dull. The characters think and act in such a way that the listener cannot develop any understanding of or empathy for them. At times they trust people with no basis, are suspicious to the point of paranoia with very little reason, and act cool and rational in the face of great danger, then panic with very little cause. They are capable of planning and foresight but often act on impulse in important situations. The villains are organized, powerful conspirators who behave in an unnecessarily careless, arbitrary, and brutal manner. Still, George Guidall's melodramatic reading does keep the listener engaged. A marginal purchase for most collections. Christine Valentine, Davenport Univ. Lib., Kalamazoo, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.