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Monday, June 11, 2012

Living Proof by Kira Peikoff

Living Proof by Kira Peikoff
Publisher: Tor/Forge
Genre: Scifi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (368 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

In 2027, destroying an embryo is considered first-degree murder. Fertility clinics still exist, giving hope and new life to thousands of infertile families, but they have to pass rigorous inspections by the United States Department of Embryo Preservation. Fail an inspection, and you will be prosecuted.

Brilliant young doctor Arianna Drake seems to be thriving in the spotlight: her small clinic surpasses every government requirement, and its popularity has spiked—a sudden, rapid growth that leaves the DEP chief mystified. When he discovers Arianna’s radical past as a supporter of an infamous scientist, he sends undercover agent Trent Rowe to investigate her for possible illegal activity.

As Trent is pulled into Arianna’s enigmatic world, his own begins to unravel. The secret he finally uncovers will deeply move him—and jeopardize them both. With the clock ticking her life away, he finds himself questioning everything he knows to be true, and then must summon the courage to take the greatest risk of all. Nothing less than human life—and a major scientific breakthrough—hang in the balance.

A thought-provoking thriller by debut author Kira Peikoff, Living Proof is a celebration of love and life that cuts to the core of a major cultural debate of our time.

It’s easy to surround yourself with people who agree with you. What many moral crusaders don’t realize, though, is how even the most noble intentions can buckle into something unrecognizable if there’s no one around to challenge their assumptions about the world.

Trent and Arianna are deeply committed to their respective belief systems. Both see themselves as the heroes of their stories, as guardians of something precious. Neither one has the self-knowledge to understand how someone could ever disagree with their positions on abortion or stem cell research. The awkward, sweet interactions between Arianne and Trent as they slowly begin to understand one another were my favourite scenes in the story.

Unfortunately there was a very black and white separation between the the pro-life/anti-stem cell research and pro-choice/pro-stem cell research sentiments in the book. Certain scenes came across as carefully scripted sermons instead of spontaneous, genuine conversations between friends.

While I understand the simplicity of painting one side as fighting for good and the other as evil the story would have been more compelling if all of the characters had been allowed to have more nuanced opinions. The vast majority of people cannot be pigeonholed into narrowly-defined labels and I think showcasing characters with such extreme opinions on this issue hurt the character development and plot.

When the characters weren’t being fed lines they flowed smoothly from one scene to the next. I found myself growing quite invested in Arianna’s story in particular and it was a little disappointing to switch from those heavy emotions to characters saying things that sounded like those political ads that air during election season in the U.S.

The premise of this book was fantastic, though. After I finished reading it I couldn’t stop thinking about Ms. Peikoff’s projection of one possible future. She's one of those writers who can create a universe similar enough to our own to be believable and just different enough to send a jolt of terror down your spine.

So what would the United States look like in a few decades if the separation between church and state were to erode? Living Proof will give you a spine-tingling glimpse into one possibility. Just remember that it’s only fiction.

So far.

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