Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Chromosome 6: Robin Cook, June 5—July 16, 2013
My rating: ♦♦◊◊◊
Chromosome 6 is a medical thriller set in New York and Equatorial Guinea. The EG cast are led by Kevin: a doctor involved in a medical programme which sees human genes inserted into bonobos in the event the donor requires a genetically identical organ for transplant, but is now worried about what he has created. The NY cast sees forensics Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery landed with the corpse of one such transplant recipient and try to get to the bottom of the anomalous identical transplant tissue.
The idea is an interesting one, and with the increasingly human-like qualities of the bonobos, complex issues of morality are raised. A tangled web of hierarchy makes the EG plot particularly intriguing as the powers that be attempt to quell Jack’s fears and intimidate him off the scent without doing away with their much-needed medical expert.
Unfortunately Cook waits too long to disclose the nature of the experiments. There are bountiful hints and allusions, leaving the reader to work out the bare bones of the situation and await the big twist – which does not exist. By the time it’s all explained, we’ve worked it out already. With no audience surrogate, all of the characters know the deal which leaves the reader bewildered and excluded from their own book. After, and only after, the “big reveal”, Kevin and Laurie begin trying to work out the self-same thing, but with the solution already known to the reader, their attempts are dull and without surprise.
Generally, the pace is slow and the story frequently sags. Too much time is wasted on inconsequential drivel while floating about in boats and what have you, and it’s frankly boring in places. Jack and Montgomery appear to be recurring characters in Cook’s fiction, and as such they refer incessantly to a previous adventure – annoying to the reader who already read it and frustrating to the reader who hasn’t. Laurie’s constant remembrances add nothing to the plot.
During many of the “technical” medical, legal and (at one point literary) discussions, a character will invariably complain about the use of acronyms or jargon, prompting the speaker to dumb down their speech. Once is believable. A hundred times is contrived and infuriating, and sounds frankly naff.
Cook loses it entirely towards the end. When the NY cast sod off to Equatorial Guinea, the plot threads are left behind, the relationship between the characters is forgotten and the writing becomes more dull than a cellar during a blackout.
Chromosome 6 has a promising and interesting base idea but is let down by poor writing which destroys the pace, dialogue and characterisation with insanely contrived marriages of convenience as friendships are suddenly struck up out of the blue. It came as a 2 in 1 with Toxin which was first read back in 2007; it wasn’t worth the wait.