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The Experiment Hardcover – September 1, 1999

3.4 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The phrase separated at birth takes on a terrifying new meaning in this riveting medical thriller from the author of Neanderthal. When tabloid journalist Jude Harley and a distraught young man known only as Skyler meet on the streets of New York City, they could be identical twins--except that Skyler is a few years younger and fitter than the 30-year-old Jude. And when Skyler sees that Jude's girlfriend, Dr. Elizabeth "Tizzie" Tierney, is a dead ringer for Julia, his own lost love, he--and we--know that something very spooky is going on. It turns out to be a case of "send in the clones": they were all part of a bizarre experiment when they were kids, and now they're up to their doppelgangers in a deadly confrontation with scientists and politicians who want to keep the whole thing quiet.

John Darnton knows how to make science accessible--he masterfully describes the intricate details of DNA and fertilized egg-splitting. He also knows how to keep the action moving at warp speed--racing from the tiny island off the Georgia coast where Skyler and his fellow clones were raised to the streets of New York and Washington, D.C., where seeing double can be terminal. --Dick Adler

From Publishers Weekly

The author of Neanderthal returns with a second science-drenched thriller that's as au courant as you'd expect from a veteran New York Times man (Darnton is that paper's cultural news editor). The novel is timely because it concerns human cloning; unfortunately, its plot is every bit as contrived as that scientific sleight of hand. Initially, the narrative follows two young men separately: Skyler lives on an isolated island off Georgia, on an estate called the Lab, where he has been raised according to strict dictates (enforced by hulking Orderlies) along with other boys and girls. Occasionally, a kid is taken away for medical work, or turns up dead. Now Skyler finds his girlfriend, Julia, eviscerated in the Lab's operating room, and escapes the island. At the same time, Jude Harley, a Manhattan tabloid reporter, is assigned a piece on identical twins. His main interview subjectAand future bedmateAis twin-researcher Tizzie Tierney. Down South, meanwhile, Skyler sees a photo of Jude, and tracks him down. Legwork and labwork point to Skyler being Jude's clone; Julia, it seems, was Tizzie's clone. But how, and why? Jude, Skyler and Tizzie undertake a cross-country hunt for clues, all the while hunted in turn not only by the Orderlies but by a renegade FBI faction involved in the grand conspiracy behind all the fuss. Darnton is a prize-winning reporter (including a Pulitzer), and that expertise shows in his careful employment of scientific detail about twins and cloning. His novelist's skills are less honed. The story is driven not by character, but by plot, which has a strung-out feel, featuring one chase or killing or crisis after another. Darnton's prose is impeccable but flat, while the book's climax, involving a mad doctor, is howlingly melodramatic. This novel may reflect today's news, but Ira Levin wrote a much snappier cloning thriller, The Boys from Brazil, more than 20 years ago.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 421 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton : Penguin Group; 1st edition (September 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525945172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525945178
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,742,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Darnton's Pulitzer Prize credentials and industry plaudits at the top of this page duped and misled me. No prizes for this yarn. The book fails from the classic high-concept, poor-execution syndrome. The idea of an island of clones as an organ farm for the rich and famous is the fodder of good thrillers. What would happen if one of these poor clones escaped and made his way to New York City in search of his twin? Imagine the thrills and fun a reader could have turning pages to find out if this renegade fish out of water could stay one step ahead of the bad guys and foil the whole conspiracy!
No such luck. The novel's trouble begins as soon as the hapless twin manages a convenient escape from "Clone Island." From there, he quickly teams up with the "real" Jude and his girlfriend. Then they're off on a slow-witted, cross-country trek to find out -- well, we're never quite sure what they're looking for.
Our bumbling trio of hard drinkers (immune to hangovers!) prove to be amateur sleuths when it comes to unraveling conspiracies that reach all the way to -- surprise! -- Washington D.C. They could be swept up and killed at any time. Instead, they are allowed to traipse across the country, SLOOWWWLY unearthing clues to their pasts. The trio is never clever enough to figure out the big picture or who is supposedly chasing them. I ceased having fun. By the end of the story, the mad scientists finally sit our hero down and spell out the plot to him in a few pages of rushed narrative so the reader can make sense of this plodding story. Imagination, apparently, has run dry in New York.
Darnton shows off his investigative-reporting chops by expositing the science of cloning and life extension, presented here as a series of character lectures.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the first novel by John Darnton that I have read. It is very well plotted and well researched, has interesting characters that you care about, moves very swiftly, and clearly explains the basis of recent genetic research. In spite of all these positives it nowhere near lives up to the potential that it could have achieved for a book by an author of his proven abilities. It appears that Darnton vacillated; he has written a book that has elements of a major work of fiction that philosophically and scientifically investigates such phenomena as cloning, gentic experimentation, organ transplants, and the effect of hereditary influences on identical twins but then also attempted to create an action-filled suspense novel to be quickly read without much contemplation.
The story begins with Jude Harley, a newspaper reporter, investigating a murder where the corpse had been mutilated, apparently to conceal the victim's identity. He is concurrently assigned by his editor to research a story on identical twins, which leads him to interview a leading expert in that field, Dr. Elizabeth Hurley. Meanwhile, alternate chapters introduce us to Skyler, a young man caught up in very strange circumstances on an island off the Atlantic coast. As you may guess, the lives of these three major protogonists are interwoven in strange ways that form the basis of this story. Jude and Skyler come face to face under dangerous circumstances, and appear to be twins despite the apparent immpoosibilty of that fact.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Skyler lived his whole life on a secluded island as one of dozens of test subjects in a ground-breaking experiment being conducted by The Lab. The Lab, where Skyler has called home for 25 years will soon become a frightening memory after he makes a gruesome discovery; the mutilated body of another "subject". Skyler flees the island and ends up in New York where he comes face to face with himself.
Jude is a reporter for a local tabloid and becomes engrossed in his newest subject, a younger yet identical version of himself. Along with Tizzie, a medical researcher in biology and identical twins, the three set out on the long path to discover what the meaning is behind The Lab, the "Orderlies" who follow them around, and why there is suddenly a rash of similar murders.
Darnton did an excellent job in his research for this state-of-the-art thriller. If you enjoy biological thrillers, The Experiment is the book for you. I love this kind of novel, but I thought Darnton got a little too detailed at times when discussing the biological aspects of the story. When the technical descriptions went on too long, I found myself skimming right over them. It seemed this information got a little technical for the lay person who is just looking for a good suspense story.
Darnton presents a great story-line and "The Experiment" kept me up late at night reading. The characters develop well, especially Skyler, who becomes a personal friend. There is suspense, action, murder, and of course, biology to keep you interested until the very end.
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