- Vitro by Jessica Khoury
Every pilot in Guam knows to steer clear of Skin Island, an outpost of the Corpus medical research group. Still, when Sophie Crue shows up, seventeen, gorgeous, and anxious to find her mother, eighteen-year-old Jim Julien flies her to Corpus anyway. A bad landing that leaves them temporarily stranded brings back Jim’s misgivings, [End Page 363] however, and he’s suspicious at the arrival of the overly friendly Nicholas, who seems to know more about Sophie than he should. Sophie nonetheless follows Nicholas into the jungle in hope of finding her mother and the super-secret lab; there she discovers that her mom isn’t a miracle-maker but is instead experimenting with mind-control implants and twin embryos, including Sophie’s own twin. Meanwhile, Jim discovers Sophie’s twin, Lux, and helps her escape, and now Sophie, Jim, and Lux are on the run for their lives from the unscrupulous researchers seeking to keep their secrets. With its intriguing blend of science fiction and mystery-island adventure story, this novel offers a multitude of heart-racing fun. The action scenes are exciting, with plenty of chases, gun-battles, near-escapes, and kidnappings. Unfortunately there’s too much inaction outside of those scenes, bogging down the overall pace with ponderous introspection from the main characters and long spates of overexplaining the island and the various villains’ true intentions. The chemistry between Sophie and Jim is immediate and intense, but once they reach the island, they spend much of the novel on solo adventures, undermining the romantic potential. Still, fans of the author’s Origin are likely to be drawn to Khoury’s new work and pleased by casual references to the events from that title, while aficionados of clone and neuroscience fiction may find the underlying narrative compelling.