Book Review

Karin Hollricher

Jennifer Rohn:
Experimental Heart.

Paperback: 364 pages
Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (November 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0879698764
ISBN-13: 978-0879698768
Price: 12.99 EUR

Life, Love and Mystery in the Lab

Most science fiction is simply bad. Either the story is miserable or the scientific details aren’t correct or both. But recently I discovered a book by Jennifer Rohn that, for me as a fan of mysteries and love stories, became a real page turner. There’s a well-written, engaging plot and the science, ranging from ELISA to SCID mice, is correct (as far as I can tell, not being an expert in signal transduction).

In the captivating novel, Experimental Heart, Andrew O’Hara, postdoc and cell biologist at a university in London gets caught up in lab work, falls in love and becomes embroiled in secret and illegal gene therapy experiments. Just as Andy is about to produce some excellent research he falls head over heels in love with Gina, an idealistic scientist working for the tiny biotech company Geniaxis. When Gina gets into difficulties with another smart but reckless scientist planning illegal medical studies in Africa Andy helps her, with support from the beautiful and clever Maria and Christine. By and by Rohn discloses the scientific fraud in its complete inhuman dimension.

While the mystery plot is fine, the love story is a little bit too formulaic. That a scientist dissects his love like a protocol for an experiment, as Andy did, is laughable. And our hero seems too thoughtful and reserved, being unable or unwilling to disclose his feelings to his beloved Gina. While accompanying Andy’s striving for romance and scientific reputation, the reader dives deeply into the scientific life that Rohn apparently knows very well from her own experience. Rather accurately, she depicts the different characters you might meet in a life science lab: the ingenious Eastern European group leader, the ambitious PhD student, the mediocre diploma student and the notoriously over-worked postdoc. The reader is introduced to the researchers’ working day and half of their nights too, reducing their private lives to drinking with colleagues in pubs, competing for top publications and suffering from too little lab space, financial hardship and vending-machine-induced malnutrition. After reading the book one is completely familiar with the scientists’ lot of self-sacrifice and frustration.

Jennifer Rohn started writing a couple of years ago, first as a science journalist and editor, then as an author. Now she’s working at the MRC University College in London, but also writes part-time. She has finished another book and is working on a third one, she reveals on her blog, “Mind the Gap”. They all deal with scientific life, a genre that she coined “laboratory literature” some years ago. Read more on her website

Letzte Änderungen: 24.07.2013