review by Maryom
Alex Mansfield was the cool-headed research scientist heading up an experimental human reproductive programme attempting to grow a baby in an artificial womb ... but somewhere along the line she's become emotionally involved - and is now on the run with that baby, hiding out from colleagues, police and the baby's parents. Is she just trying to claim the baby as her own, justifying her actions by claiming he was in danger? or do her fears have any basis in fact?
Surrogate parenting of any sort is an emotive subject, but in Baby X Rebecca Ann Smith has managed to combine thought-provoking insights into the ethics behind the science with the compelling read of a thriller.
By telling the story from the differing perspectives of three women the author, and reader with her, can explore the issue from a multitude of angles - Alex, the scientist who although initially only interested in helping infertile couples becomes emotionally entangled in her work, her junior, Dolly, who manages to stand back and see her work objectively, and Karen, the woman who desperately wants to be a mother but can't. She also shows the uneven coverage such a project could attract from the media - sympathising with the parents in their desire to have a family (providing they play nice with the press) while demonising the scientist who can fulfil their dreams as a Frankenstein figure - and, through the fears of Dolly's mother, the threats that research establishments face from protesters.
This isn't just a fictionalised debate about ethics though - it soon becomes apparent that someone has been accessing data from the project, possibly putting it, and Baby X's life, in jeopardy. The thriller aspect changes from 'will Alex be caught up with and the baby saved?' to ' will she be caught up with and the baby endangered?'. You won't want to put the book down until you know ...
I'm hesitating over how I'd label Baby X - 'medical drama' smacks of House hunting down a cure for a mystery illness, or George Clooney in ER gazing soulfully up at the camera; sci-fi, although artificial gestation is a common enough concept there, seems too high-tech and Star Trek-y. The science involved seems only a step or two into the future, and at heart this a story about people and their motivations, for good or bad, with the reader's sympathy and suspicions moving from one character to another. With such a lot of aspects to debate, it's a story I'd definitely recommend for book groups.
Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Mother's Milk Books
Genre - adult fiction, thriller