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Transhuman
by Ben Bova
Tor, $8.99, 387pp
Published: March 2015

Luke is an aging cellular biologist with a beloved granddaughter dying of cancer.  Nothing can be done to save the 8-year-old girl but Luke rages against the prognosis and swears that he will find a way.  He’s been experimenting with a radical treatment but her hospital and her parents refuse to allow him to try it on Angela.  It’s incomprehensible to him that he isn’t allowed to try when her death is already a foregone conclusion; so he kidnaps her. 

The kidnapping brings the FBI into the chase and their investigation stimulates a billionaire to offer Luke a refuge and assistance in exchange for owning his research.  It seems that his treatment to cure cancer, while extraordinarily profitable alone, has another effect:  reversing the aging process – a youth serum.  And that brings in a paranoid government bureaucrat who foresees the collapse of the American economy when people can live well past 100.

So a chase ensues while Luke tries to stay one step ahead of the FBI until he can hand over his now-healthy granddaughter to her grieving parents. But the government has other ideas – such as locking up everyone involved so that no word of the cancer cure escapes.

Now, let’s not forget that Ben Bova has been a hard science-fiction staple for generations.  But, for the life of me, I cannot describe this book as science fiction.  That description has become a bit slippery in the past few years as more of the mainstream readers embrace speculative fiction and publishers downplay the more fantastical elements.  This book has little in it that is recognizable as science fiction – just the cancer cure.  It felt to me as the author’s soapbox to vent against government bureaucracy and their undoubted hostile reaction to anything that would free our population and change the status quo. It was as well-written as anything Bova has done with well-drawn characters.  It was the plot that left me wanting. The title promised everything but the story didn’t deliver. ~~  Catherine Book

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