Charles Wilson

St. Martin’s Press / 304 pages / February 1999

ISBN: 0312968248

Mention the name Charles Wilson in front of a group of writers and the first comment is always going to be about his talent for plotting.

Embryo isn’t going to do anything to taint that reputation. This is a perfect example of how to plot a best-seller. And how to build up a loyal following. Charles Wilson fans everywhere have probably been waiting feverishly for this novel since they finished the last page of Extinct.

Here’s another story readers can sink their teeth into.

Imagine a child born, not from a woman’s womb, but from an artificial womb (and you thought the abortion issue was out of control now). How will human beings react to machines bringing embryos to term? What kind of life will these “engineered” children have in a world crammed with paparazzi and tabloid news addicts? Is there the slightest doubt in your mind that this would become an ideological war zone?

Think about it, because this is not a question of if, but when.

In Embryo, the time is now. All it takes is one woman, unable to bear her own child, with enough determination and enough money to find a way it can be done. That woman must find the one doctor on Earth who has succeeded in artificial gestation. To do that, she will involve a small-time firm of skip-tracers to track the man down. No matter how much he wants to remain hidden.

Embryo jumps from the suburbs of Biloxi to the poverty of rural Mexico and then to the big power of Los Angeles. Characters appear and disappear almost as quickly as the scene shifts. Subplots creep in from every side until it seems that the threads will never pull back together into a whole story. Fear not — Wilson is on top of the situation. Just let me give you two suggestions: remember every character that pops up, and don’t get too attached to them. You couldn’t swing a slot machine without hitting a corpse in this one.

But what about the weaknesses in the book? All right. Some cutting would be welcome to tighten the narrative up a bit. Some conclusions are so obvious it is almost disappointing when things turn out the way you expect. Some of the characters are shameless stereotypes. Some dialogue…

You couldn’t give a &%@$ about any of this; you just want to read a good story. Fine. Embryo is going to do it for you. After the first scene you will be hooked. Especially after this first scene. Shudder.

Pick up a copy — everyone else is going to be after the ad campaign hits. Don’t be the only commuter who isn’t reading it. How gauche! And expect to have your beliefs challenged, if not your intellect. Just enjoy the ride.