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Chromosome 6 clarifies cloning

by Cindy Wendt, Scinece & Environment editor

 

In the New York Times bestseller Chromosome 6, author Robin Cook takes the possibilities of genetic manipulation and cloning to a new level. As the novel begins, a nerdy molecular biologist in Equatorial Guinea (Africa) begins to question the ethics of his own research while two determined pathologists in New York City discover a mysterious liver transplant in an unidentified murder victim one day after a corpse is stolen from their morgue.

As the novel unfolds, Cook provides mystery, suspense, and humor for anyone who enjoys science but lacks the patience or interest to read research material.

Even though Cook provides a glossary of medical and scientific terms, his novel is not an easy read. Still, it can be enjoyed by readers with different levels of knowledge in genetics and cloning.

Kevin Marshal, the nerdy molecular biologist, works for a large corporation called GenSys in a virtually uninhabited African country. Surrounded by rainforests, the town of Cogo in Equatorial Guinea provides an ideal atmosphere to run a highly secretive laboratory to conduct genetic experimentations. In his five years of working for GenSys, Marshal developed a method of transferring the short arm of chromosome six from humans to bonobos (a type of monkey) in order to clone compatible organs to sell for human transplants.

Marshal begins to question his genetic manipulation when he discovers shocking facts about chromosome six that lead him to believe he has created a new species somewhere between man and ape.

Marshal teams up with two beautiful young women who are also convinced that GenSys has taken animal experimentation and genetic manipulation too far. In their haste to uncover the consequences of Marshal’s work, they alert dangerous GenSys employees prepared to hide their corporation’s developments at any cost.

Meanwhile, pathologists Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery investigate a missing mafia corpse stolen from their morgue and a suspicious unidentified “floater.” When Stapleton performs his autopsy on the floater, he discovers that the victim had a liver transplant. He is unable to find the donor in an attempt to identify the victim, and the DNA from the liver and the victim appear to be the same. The victim appears to have had a liver transplant with his own liver!

As Stapleton focuses on the floater, Montgomery continues searching for the missing corpse. Clues from these cases lead the pathologists closer and closer to uncovering the true intentions of the mysterious GenSys corporation.

Cook writes his thriller from many different points of view: Marshal’s, Stapleton’s, Montgomery’s, and various villains’. The lack of focus on one or two main characters and settings leads to some confusion in the first five chapters, but as the book progresses, the reader becomes more familiar with each character and his or her function.

Dr. Robin Cook is a graduate of Columbia Medical School. He finished his postgraduate medical training at Harvard. He is the author of many bestselling novels including Outbreak, Mutation, Blindsight, and more.

 

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