That pea-pickin' monk, Gregor
Mendel, could not possibly have guessed just how far Science
would go with his new field of study. From his first published
writings in 1866 that laid the foundation for the modern study
of genetics, to the impending total decoding of the human genome
at the start of the 21st Century, scientists have been closing
in on answers to "What is life?" and "How can
we make it the way we want it?" But can humanity handle
Like any other kind of knowledge,
genetic technology is a tool . . . totally amoral. Only the human
beings that choose to use it can have any moral considerations.
For his first novel Humphrey has written a thrilling science
fiction adventure story. Set in the very near future, it uses
the conflict between a "good" group and a "bad"
group of scientists, working on the mass-production cloning of
humans, to illustrate the moral dilemmas we as a society are
just now beginning to face.
The Smyth family are the "good"
guys; continuing the work of the late William A. Smyth, who cloned
himself once, then thirty times at once, and then cloned thirty
more from dissimilar genetic materials. The first clone was born
in 1974, in vitro, and gestated in a surrogate woman. The next
thirty, brothers and sisters, were born between August 1978 and
February 1979 in much the same way. But the most recent thirty
were gestated artificially, from different, exceptional donors.
These are now 3 and 4 years old, and being raised and educated
by the extended Smyth "family."
Sir Henry Wellington and his
European Consortium for Genetic Studies are the "bad"
guys. Sir Henry had supported William Smyth financially, and
when he learned that the first clone was NOT Smyth's child, but
the result of the first successful experiment, he had him kidnapped.
At the time of the story, Sir Henry is doing a brisk black market
trade in transplantable organs and human tissues. These are cut
from the living clones at his secret flesh farm in France, where
he is supposedly doing animal research on hybrids with human
DNA to avoid transplant rejection.
Nick Hoskins is a reporter from
the Indianapolis Chronicle who stumbles on the Smyth family
secrets. The story is told from his point of view as the conflict
becomes violent and spreads internationally.
The Mendelian Threshold is well worth seeking out just for the
pleasure of the story, but like the best Science Fiction, it
foreshadows the future while we still have time to think about
it. Both Theology and Philosophy have yet to decide what it is
to be human, or simply to be alive. Our Science brings to humanity
all kinds of interesting new possibilities. But what's an ethical
person to do?
Kirkus Reviews, July 2000
(Note: We consider it an honor to have been reviewed in this
Ambitious reporter Nick Hoskins becomes curious about the work
of the recently deceased British cloning expert William Smyth.
Behind Smyth, Nick learns, stands a whole family of clones. While
snooping, he's grabbed by clones Michael and Celeste but, after
talking things over, agrees to help them distract their great
enemy and rival, the comic-opera evil scientist Sir Henry Wellington
(Batman's foe, the Penguin, irresistibly comes to mind.) Sir
Henry's also an expert on clones, but he grows them for spare
parts. Fie! Smitten by the stunning but aloof Celeste, Nick visits
the imposing Smyth mansion in England, where the staff is all
ex-MI6 and Michael's raising a younger crop of non-Smyth genius
clones. Wicked Sir Henry covets them; years ago, he also abducted
the first Smyth clone, Adam, to Russia, where he was later reported
killed. Adam's not dead, of course; Nick digs him up after a
few minutes of research on the Internet. Nick, William [sic]
and Celeste meet Adam in Russia. He's indeed the missing clone,
but Sir Henry's thugs shoot Nick; Celeste vanishes and is thought
to be dead. Poor distraught Nick soon learns that Sir Henry has
abducted Celeste--and he's also hijacked the plane carrying the
young Smyth clones to safety in the US. So, Nick, ex-MI6, and
the Michael clones must gallop to the rescue. A no-brainer.
Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2000
A band of super-smart human clones goes up against a group of
greedy scientists in Robert Humphrey's first novel, The Mendelian
Threshold. Nick Hoskins, an ambitious investigative reporter,
is itching for a Pulitzer and trying to fend off burnout when
he gets entangled with a suspicious group of beautiful people---all
of whom, he shortly discovers, are human clones. Hatched by a
dedicated and principled British scientist (now dead) who then
think of as their father, the clones need Nick's help in finding
their long-lost brother and putting a stop to a diabolical scheme
managed by their father's former colleagues.
Fran Baker, Delphi Books (www.FranBaker.com)
Investigative reporter Nick Hoskins has about as many good stories
as he does dashed hopes under his belt. Then he stumbles upon
the story that could make his career: a family of perfect human
clones living in his hometown. But they're not the only ones.
There are more clones scattered across the globe, and they're
in mortal danger. In order to obtain what could prove to be an
earthshaking exclusive, not to mention a Pulitzer Prize, Nick
must first put his own life on the line. As he engages in a desperate
international search to save the "next generation"
of clones, he finds that he's falling in love with the woman
of his dreams - a beautiful clone by the name of Celeste.
The Mendelian Threshold is a gripping tale of human emotions
and of science run amok. It brings the reader face-to-face with
issues that transcend death, and the sometimes-wonderful, sometimes-horrible
scientific discoveries that will challenge us all in the near-future.
And, finally, it is the story of a love that frees the spirit.
Robert Humphrey has written a morality play in the best sense
of those words. He doesn't pause in the middle of the story to
hammer home his point, but, rather, he keeps the action going
and is satisfied to leave it to readers to examine what is important
within in their world and in the world at large. Word is, the
motion picture, television and visual rights on this book have
been optioned. That makes sense because this is the kind of "good
versus evil" story that always translates well on film.
So ... see ya at the movies!
Harriet Klausner, The Midwest Book Review's "Internet
Chronicle reporter Nick Hoskins saw Michael Smyth by chance.
Nick was at the cemetery visiting the graves of his parents when
he noticed the Armani-clad individual. After the gentleman left,
a curious Nick went over to read the gravestone of William A.
Smyth. Nick thought perhaps there is a human-interest story here
that will keep him temporarily away from his mainstay of political
corruption (an oxymoron in the mind of the journalist). However,
a check into his newspaper's obituary stated very little about
the death of one of the small town's wealthiest individuals.
Wondering why, Nick begins making inquiries.
As he digs deeper, Nick learns that the ultimate cloning has
occurred in his backyard. The brilliant British geneticist, William
Smyth, has ingeniously produced replications of himself. However,
problems exist as a rival scientist sees profit by harvesting
the organs of the cloned beings to sell on the market. Nick and
his new associates risk all to stop the reaping of organs from
the clone community.
This reviewer had no plans to read another novel about clones,
but I made a commitment. I expected my "fifty-page rule"
to bail me out, but to my delight, I spent the next couple of
hours reading the best book I can recall on the subject. The
Mendelian Threshold provides a thrilling close-up into modern
genetics, especially cloning. In his debut novel, Robert Humphrey
forces readers to battle with the ethics of cloning and the potential
for misuse, including growing human crops for their organs. By
making readers debate the topic, this is a science fiction thriller
at its best, even though clones of this tale will surely follow
as the word spreads.