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Living Proof Hardcover – February 28, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Andrew Gross Reviews Living Proof

At what stage does human life actually begin? Where does "right" reside when state-run religion and medical science collide? In the clashing rocks of faith and human desire, will it be courage or blind devotion to duty that prevails, and can love chart a course between them?

These are a few of the bold themes raised in Kira Peikoff's thought-provoking new thriller, Living Proof, set in the all-too-foreseeable future where the government controls all pregnancies and fertilizations in the ideological battleground between state-enforced values and scientific advancement. Dr. Arianna Drake runs a Manhattan fertilization clinic, but she also harbors a dangerous secret: she suffers from an advancing case of multiple sclerosis, and in conjunction with a brilliant researcher, once a colleague of her scientist parents, Arianna has set up a clandestine, underground lab using outlawed stem cells to find a cure to her disease. But if the state discovers her, she and her coconspirators will be imprisoned for life and her potentially lifesaving research shut down.

Trent Rowe is an agent for the state's Department of Embryo Preservation: devout, ambitious, and, at the same time, searching for true meaning in his religiously dominated life. His fervent Catholic upbringing made him a willing soldier in the war against sacrificing embryos, cloning, and "baby killing." Trent's fanatical boss, Gideon Dopp, suspects Arianna's operation and gives Trent the assignment of getting close to her and exposing her illegal activities. Activities that, if successful, could heal vast numbers of people stricken with her disease.

What takes place is virtually a tug-of-war between devotion and conscience for Trent's unsettled soul—the combatants being his Jauvert-like boss, who hunts Arianna with single-minded zeal; the intense pushing of Trent's religiously driven family for advancement in his career; Trent's growing attraction to Arianna, which threaten his convictions; and his slowly evolving belief that what she and her colleagues are doing is, in truth, not evil at all, but in fact creating a greater good. Arianna's increasing trust in Trent puts her at odds with her lab-mates who are risking everything, worried that any slip in security could cost them their lives.

Peikoff may be a first-time novelist, but she is totally adept at keeping things moving and never polemical, and always balancing the personal, human drama with the science of stem-cell technology and the clock-ticking machinations of the state. Arianna and Trent's delicately evolving love story becomes the battleground of the novel's moral conflict, as Trent faces the Antigone-like choice of either betraying the state and the moral code that has raised him, or the person he has grown to love. Peikoff shows a sophisticated touch in balancing the science and the countdown to potential disaster with the drama of rising human feelings that is the true engine of the book.  

If, like me, you like your thrillers deeply human and always rising in consequence and what's at stake, Living Proof is one for you: page-turning, intellectually stimulating, emotionally satisfying. In this battle between courage and blind duty, it's worth finding out which wins out in the end.

Andrew Gross is the award-winning author of several novels, the latest of which is Eyes Wide Open.


Taut, energetic, and imaginative... A remarkable debut! (Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Fragile)

Kira Peikoff's imagination is a wonder to behold and an amazing place to visit. You have to check this one out. (Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Jefferson Key)

A terrific read--tightly woven and tense as a coiled snake. (Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author of A Heartbeat Away)

Living Proof is a rare book. A thriller that keeps you turning pages. A novel of suspense fraught with danger… Kira Peikoff belongs to a very small cadre of writers to watch… I cannot wait to see what she writes next! (M. J. Rose, international bestselling author of The Hypnotist)

Makes you think, makes you sweat, leaves you happy--everything a good book should. (Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels)

A compelling and thought-provoking thriller…this frighteningly plausible novel will keep you turning the pages all night long. A stunning debut. (Douglas Preston, New York Times bestselling author of Impact)

Peikoff's unsettling, timely debut presents an uncomfortably plausible near-future, in which the destruction of all human embryos has been outlawed in the name of saving the lives of unborn children. … This engaging effort marks her as an author to watch. (Publishers Weekly)

[Peikoff] has taken serious cultural debates from our present-day society and blended them into a tale that's not very fantastical, since we're not far off from bringing this extremely frightening story to life….[Peikoff] will find legions of fans that will admire her 'moxie' and look forward to her second novel. For anyone interested in a writer who cuts to the chase over a highly difficult subject, this is the book for you. (Suspense Magazine)

Living Proof is a well-written thriller that deals with issues of great relevance in today's world: When exactly does an embryo become a human being? Whose life is of most value? To her great credit, Peikoff creates believable, well-rounded characters who represent both sides of a tough moral question. (Mystery Scene Magazine)

The two protagonists are dealing with life and death and even love at a time when religious fanatics are allowed to carry guns into fertility clinics, and scientists are under microscopes. Living Proof is a startling, perceptive debut that examines repercussions for the future if emotion is allowed to trump knowledge. (Award-winning reviewer Lesa Holstine)

Not only does the book force the reader to think about larger issues, but the journey of the characters, and their change in ideology and purpose as the narrative proceeds is so multi-layered and advanced for a debut novel, and worth reading for that alone. (Chantelle Aimee Osman, Poisoned Pen Bookstore)

An intense, thought-provoking thrill ride that will linger within your subconscious long after you have read it. If you are looking for a sharp, fast-paced knockout of a novel that pushes its reader to the edge and forces self reflection and contemplation, then this is a must. (Guy Lopez, Vroman's bookstore)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765329301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765329301
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,926,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By PT Cruiser TOP 50 REVIEWER on February 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down. The story takes place in 2027 and it centers around a young doctor, Adriana Drake, who along with a small group of partners, owns a fertility clinic in midtown Manhattan, and a young man, Trent Rowe, an agent with the DEP (Department of Embryo Preservation). Other main characters are Sam Lisio, an embryonic stem cell researcher who works with Adrianna and her partners and Gideon Dopp, Trent's boss. In this future time it has become illegal to do stem cell research using embryonic stem cells and the DEP is a government agency entrusted with the task of policing fertility clinics to make sure that all embryonic stem cells which have been harvested from women wishing to have children are accounted for and that none of them are destroyed. Clinics are required to submit monthly reports to the agency, showing the number of stem cells they obtain and they have monthly unannounced inspections where an inspector counts the vials of stem cells and goes so far as to check each under a microscope to verify that is actually what the test tube contains.

Gideon Dopp, head of the NY division, suspects that something may be amiss in Adrianna's clinic because of the large number of embryonic stem cells they deal with and the popularity of the small clinic. The story unfolds from this point. This is one of those books where you really don't want to read any more spoilers before sitting down with the book on your own. I was so wrapped up in the story after the first few chapters that I would go to bed and then have to get up to read more. I became downright antisocial when family members tried to interrupt my reading. It was that engrossing.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In "Living Proof," author Kira Peikoff turns to the world of the near future. The year is 2027 and medical research has become much more conservative. Stem cell research is illegal, IVF clinics are regulated and monitored with severe penalties visited upon those who do not take the appropriate precautions.

Enter our hero, disaffected, jaded DEP (Department of Embryo Protection) agent Trent Rowe. Trent is sent undercover to glean information about a young, successful fertility doctor, Arianna Drake, daughter of a renegade scientist. Although her clinic is above reproach and she passes every inspection without a hitch, Trent's zealot boss, ex-priest Gideon Dopp, believes she is hiding something, and might even lead to a shutdown, which would mean more money, fame and attention for his department. Trent just hopes that doing a good job for the department will add meaning and purpose to his life, which is growing increasingly hollow. For her part, Arianna is coping with a serious illness, and, although drawn to Trent, is unsure whether to trust him.

It's a good solid idea for a novel and an important issue for people to consider. I did, however, find the main characters to be a bit cliche-driven. Also, the story would have benefited from some tighter editing. We hear interior monologues from most of the major characters, as well as being told of their motivations in exacting detail. If the story moved along at a tighter, more purposeful clip, I would have enjoyed it more.

Also, the ending was enigmatic, to put it mildly. While our hero and heroine may do okay, it's hard to imagine what their next steps would be or how they will live into their future lives or effect the kind of change they would like to. It's a decent first novel about an important issue - it will be interesting to see what Ms. Peikoff does next.
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"What man worships...is indicative of his very essence, for reverence is man's deepest form of love, one which holds the key to his soul."

This passage holds the key to the entire novel, and how to understand the characters. The first half of the novel mainly focuses on the one character who changes fundamentally in this respect, as he tries to solve the mystery of what the other main character worships and simultaneously begins to undergo a profound change in his own deepest values. At first, I wanted the book to focus more on the other character earlier on, but came to appreciate what the author was doing.

Unfortunately, when the crucial moment comes it is not entirely convincing. She just talks rather abstractly about life and faith for a couple of paragraphs, and he says, "Everything you say makes perfect sense," and he's completely convinced and that's that. It's all too obvious that the author was not raised to be and has never been religious and has no idea what that's like. Not that this kind of fiction should be naturalistic, but for such a critical plot point to be convincing it at least needs to be somewhat realistic.

But after that the book gets back on track and picks up more and more until it reaches its excellent climax and conclusion. On the whole, a very good first novel. I'll be looking forward to her next.
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The theme seems to be the superiority of reason over faith, but the characters representing religion are caricatures. At one point, a priest tells the main character, "Remember the whole idea of faith, Trent: Let go of reason and give in to God's higher plan." And then, "Think of Jesus. You need to learn how to sacrifice your own desires in order to do something that will help others." As I grew up in a Catholic family and went to Catholic schools for twelve years, I know that the church is not this crude or transparent. They are much more subtle and vague, and actually pretend that faith and reason can co-exist. Perhaps by growing up in a staunchly atheist home (her father is Objectivist Leonard Piekoff), Ms. Piekoff doesn't realize that all of her religious characters don't ring true. The caricatures of religious people was a big stumbling block for me as a reader.

Living Proof borrows quite a bit from Atlas Shrugged. Since Atlas Shrugged is one of my favorite books, this might seem a good thing. However, Living Proof doesn't have characters or a plot to match Ayn Rand's classic, so when scenes are borrowed, it detracts from the book. One example is when Arianna and Sam overcome a major obstacle before government forces can stop them. Arianna expresses that it seems silly that they feared the government forces and that they never really had to worry about them, which is how Atlas Shrugged ended with Dagney saying the same thing to John Galt. I still experience a sense of awe in remembering that scene from Atlas Shrugged, while I don't feel anything when Arianna says the same sentiment in Living Proof.

Another problem I've noticed in Living Proof is that Ms. Piekoff breaks Ayn Rand's first rule of plot: make things as difficult as possible for the characters.
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