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Biologist Christopher Bacon finds more than he bargained for a trip to the rain forests of New Guinea when he uncovers a plant that is rumored among natives to halt the aging process.
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Elixir is a novel poised, sometimes awkwardly, between the demands of philosophical speculation and those of hang-on-to-your-hats suspense. Gary Braver's biotech thriller takes as its premise the existence of a fountain of youth: when Chris Bacon, a dedicated medicinal chemist for Darby Pharmaceuticals, journeys to Papua, New Guinea, in search of "miracle drugs that grow on trees," he finds much more than the contraceptive plant steroids he was looking for. He discovers tabukari, the "forbidden flower of the long day"--a blossom with the power to prolong life.
When his bosses, and other powerful and unsavory characters, discover that Chris has successfully synthesized a formula for immortality, the scientist and his family become the targets of a ruthless manhunt. What the bad guys don't know is that Chris didn't stop at injecting lab rats with his elixir; he is himself participating in a dangerous experiment. Braver effectively conveys both Chris's burning desire to test the fruits of his labor, and his wife's prophetic understanding that those fruits are far more lethal than anything Eve might have given Adam:
They were silent for a long spell, and Laura felt the old anger burn itself through the sadness. Chris had brought this upon them himself. In a monumentally stupid act he had injected the stuff into his veins thirteen years ago and forever infected the very fabric of their lives. While she understood all the forces that had driven him to that act, she could never forgive him. More than anyone else alive he was able to foresee the consequences but had chosen to disregard them instead. And while she felt pity and compassion for him, there were moments she hated him for what he had done.
In addition to metaphysical speculations on the social consequences of living forever, biotech thrillers demand action, suspense, car chases, villains, breathless pursuits, guns, meaningful glances--you name it, Braver provides it, and it's an unholy mess at times. His sense of plot is shaky, and the novel falters whenever it moves away from Chris and his family (and even they can become a bit tedious). But Elixir is more successful than the sum of these parts would seem to allow; in taking on the power of research and genetic manipulation, Braver has plugged into a hot topic, and he largely does it justice. --Kelly FlynnFrom the Author:
"Elixir" has been optioned for a feature film by Ridley Scott, head of Scott Free Productions, and director of "Alien," "Blade Runner," "Thelma and Louise," and "Gladiator."
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