In this debut novel, the failed tests of a sleep-aid pill lead an ensemble of characters to the amazing discovery of humanity’s origins and possible extraterrestrial interference.
The Cooks, a husband-and-wife team, begin a trilogy with this hybrid of corporate-charged medical thriller and SF alien tale. For eight years, Cooper Delaney has been a bankable and industrious doctor for the struggling pharmaceutical giant Proteus. Now, he is frustrated that his surefire sleep-aid medication Noctural is not working on human test subjects. As Cooper risks his career to salvage the project, a parallel plotline brings into his life reporter Mandolin Grace, whose latest story may be crackpot science or may just alter humankind’s destiny. A few leading geneticists are proposing that the human race has literally evolved as far as it can go and has reached a stagnating plateau of physical/intellectual achievement. There’s a corollary: Homo sapiens were preceded on prehistoric Earth by a superrace that sensed approaching extinctions and fled into outer space, leaving DNA traces and atavisms behind in an attempt to perpetuate the species. Thus, aliens exist—and may still be around, on and off the planet. Key evidence is a rare “Z” chromosome, supplementing the typical XY genetic markers. The United States government takes the theory seriously, making it the subject of a legendary “File 710.” The dissolute and wealthy Saudi Khalid Al Gamdi will stop at nothing, including murder, to learn more about it—and he is the secret investor propping up Proteus. A sudden, global epidemic of insomnia, connected to all of this, raises the stakes. Disparate strands and players take time to come together in the authors’ double (maybe triple?) helix weave of international locales and capers. While the material is related in Dan Brown–esque minichapters, the emphasis is less on exciting chases (though there is a humdinger, set in Paris) and more on deep dives into character motivations and relationships, complete with a shoutout to The Great Gatsby. Results echo both Zenna Henderson’s The People collections and John Farris’ Fury series as well as numerous other upscale SF entries in which superman-hood does not necessarily mean capes and Kryptonite or flashy special effects. This segment wraps up with most of the narrative strands disconnected, and invested readers will be kept up at night waiting for more.
An intelligent SF tale with a high-stakes big pharma backdrop and skillful character development. (author bios)
The Cooks’ impressive SF medical thriller, the first of a trilogy, overflows with intriguing ideas. The main plot focuses on a new wonder sleep drug, Noctural, which runs into a snag. Despite successful preliminary trials, Noctural fails to work for a test subject with chronic insomnia and other people suffering from sleep deprivation. Figuring out why falls to a researcher for the Big Pharma company behind the medication. Other story lines are less conventional. One involves Human Pinnacle Theory, which posits that humans have reached the pinnacle of their evolution, and thus are at risk for extinction because of an inability to adapt to Earth’s changing environment. Another centers on a secret U.S. government dossier revealing that “ancient humanoid cousins” existed along with the dinosaurs and were the dominant life form at the time. Before leaving the planet, they created a DNA time capsule that led to the evolution of homo sapiens. The Cooks, a married couple, alternate between the plot threads easily. Michael Crichton fans will look forward to the sequel. (Self-published)