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Experimental Heart: A Novel. Paperback – November 13, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Scientific publishers usually work diligently to avoid any allegation of publishing fiction. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, renowned for its prestigious scientific journals and books, smashes that mold with publication of its first novel...It’s a thriller whose subject is romantic self-discovery, and its milieu is the complex world of basic and applied life science research. It’s a good read, as Rohn makes her characters in the laboratory and the biotech communities come alive. I hope it’s a harbinger of more ‘lablit’ to come...Rohn’s skill in melding the scientific and literary worlds will give you a fresh perspective on life and work.” --Cell

“Scientific publishers usually work diligently to avoid any allegation of publishing fiction. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, renowned for its prestigious scientific journals and books, smashes that mold with publication of its first novel...It’s a thriller whose subject is romantic self-discovery, and its milieu is the complex world of basic and applied life science research. It’s a good read, as Rohn makes her characters in the laboratory and the biotech communities come alive. I hope it’s a harbinger of more ablity to come...Rohn’s skill in melding the scientific and literary worlds will give you a fresh perspective on life and work.” --Cell<br /><br />“Scientific publishers usually work diligently to avoid any allegation of publishing fiction. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, renowned for its prestigious scientific journals and books, smashes that mold with publication of its first novel...It'Â’s a thriller whose subject is romantic self-discovery, and its milieu is the complex world of basic and applied life science research. It'Â’s a good read, as Rohn makes her characters in the laboratory and the biotech communities come alive. I hope it’s a harbinger of more ablity to come...Rohn’s skill in melding the scientific and literary worlds will give you a fresh perspective on life and work."
—Cell

"At the heart of the story, which Rohn tells well...is a mystery that turns on a question of science...Along the way we witness the shifting, nomadic international fellowship of scientists, and especially of postdocs. Rohn aims to change the way in which the reading public thinks about scientists." --Nature

About the Author

Dr. Jennifer Rohn is a cell biologist at University College London and founder and editor of LabLit.com, an online magazine devoted to lab culture and fiction. She has appeared on TV, radio, podcasts, live panels, and in print as a science/lit/art/culture pundit, and writes for various publications including Nature and The Scientist. She blogs about the scientific lifestyle at Mind the Gap on Nature Network. Experimental Heart is her first novel.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; 1 edition (November 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879698764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879698768
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.9 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,347,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I am not a professional book critic, and don't know the first thing about book reviews. But I can say with certainty that I absolutely LOVED Experimental Heart, which I finished in two straight days of almost continuous reading, and would recommend wholeheartedly to others.

People have argued whether this book, or this sub-genre of books, is "science-fiction" or just plain fiction. Not too keen on that distinction, I am content if a book reads well. Experimental Heart does not disappoint on that count. It is a work of fiction involving people who work in Science disciplines - people who are not hallowed supernatural beings, but everyday human beings who are capable of looking at, analyzing and solving problems in a different way by virtue of their training, and at the same time, who are equally capable of making mistakes, thus emphasizing their essential humanity.

Dr. Rohn's description of the environment of the storyline - the research laboratory environment - was impeccable. As a bio-science researcher, I could imagine effortlessly sliding into each of the characters she created with care - the under-grad, the finishing grad student, the post-doc trying to hold together the vestiges of his or her sanity. These are I and my people. The situations she dealt upon are mine and ours, down to the ethical dilemmas of animal experimentation, the paucity of social life, the long hours spent at the bench working as well as trying to untangle results from piles of data, uncertainties over the translational nature of one's research, the inherent angst of post-doctoral life - so quintessentially familiar! And that alone made the book so enjoyable, not to mention the interesting plot and the psychology of the characters! Dr. Rohn has captured the essence so well.
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Format: Paperback
Much has been said about the extremely realistic depiction of scientific research in Experimental Heart, but frankly I expected nothing less from Jennifer "Lab Lit" Rohn. Of course it's a thrill for a scientist reader to recognize lab politics and *feel* Andy's frustration at running out of Taq polymerase late at night, but that is just a bonus and is not what made this a great read.

It wasn't the correct use of experimental controls that kept me up reading at 4 A.M. and made me struggle to put the book down during a social gathering. It was the well-paced plot and the depth of the characters that pulled me in, while cliffhangers and foreshadowing seduced me to rapidly turning "just a few more" pages at odd hours.

For a few days I cared more about Andy's experiments than about my own, so I suppose waiting until after my thesis defence to pick up the book had been a wise decision...
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Format: Paperback
The worst fear of Selby--the only talking dog in Australia (and perhaps the world)--is that if his secret gets out he'll be sent to a laboratory where he'll "have to talk to boring scientists all day"(1). This portrayal of scientists--in a children's book--is by no means unique in popular culture. In fact, 'boring' might be an improvement: the white-coated, bespectacled scientist with poor hygiene and bad fashion sense is usually dangerously mad, or at best well-meaning but ineffectual. The attractive daughter is optional.

Yet other professions do not suffer from similar opprobrium. Lawyers, police, teachers, nurses all have sympathetic portrayals in popular entertainment. Even the sociopathic House, M.D. is a hero. The discrepancy is puzzling: after all, every mother believes her offspring is going to cure cancer--if they show any scientific proficiency at all. But in films scientists are usually either holding the world to ransom, creating unimaginable terrors or just generally stuffing things up. Similarly, the portrayal of science itself is lacking: although we think we have a pretty clear idea of police procedure or what happens in an emergency room, how, when it comes down to it, is science done?

Jennifer Rohn (a researcher at University College London, with a PhD in virology) started the online magazine LabLit.com to examine the portrayal of science and scientists in fiction, the media and popular culture: not so much to increase sympathy for the scientific profession but to raise general awareness.

Her first novel, Experimental Heart (CSHL Press), is firmly in this genre, the story narrated by a scientist whose life and concerns will be recognizable to many scientists and their families, and revealing to everyone else.
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Format: Paperback
I found "Experimental Heart" to be an enjoyable read that was difficult to put down. I worked for years in a research lab myself and usually find novels or movies set in that background to have little resemblance to reality. That was not the case here as the author's extensive scientific background allowed her to portray a genuine research experience. I also appreciated the unobtrusive integration into the story of controversial topics such as animal research, treatment of human research subjects in developing countries, and discrimination against women in science. However, this novel is more about the romance than the science. I sometimes got frustrated with the main character's inability to make a move on the girl, but I found him likable and was rooting for him. The rest of the cast was well thought out and characterized. I'm recommending this novel to my friends.
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