Embryo by J.A. Schneider
J.A. Schneider’s debut novel Embryo takes you on an emotional high-speed chase through its pages that’s apt to leave you needing medical assistance – to understand fully the nature of bioscience and genetic engineering, that is. It’s a superb medical thriller with a surprise ending that will infect even the most pre-med reader with a curious case of “Could this really happen?”
The story’s protagonist, Jill Raney, a sharp and inquisitive intern who works at a large medical center in New York City, discovers a suspicious pattern of chromosomal abnormalities in pregnant patients and a fetus that died under the hospital’s care. Brushing aside the protestations and admonishments of her superiors and her love interest, Jill digs further and uncovers a shocking secret in the bowels of the hospital’s renowned fertility and genetic engineering facility. What ensues is a thrilling race against time as she tries to get to the bottom of the terrifying mystery and halt the bloodshed before more patients – or she – fall victims to the terror lurking in the hospital’s corridors.
The novel’s fast pace and plot twists left me turning the pages to keep up with Jill and her next move. The ending’s unexpected conclusion tied up loose ends and set the scene for a sequel. Embryo tackles the thorny issue of genetic engineering with a deft hand. The author avoids moralizing about playing god but challenges readers to consider the moral and ethical implications of biological engineering in an intense, entertaining story. A former staffer at Newsweek Magazine who can tell a story worthy of news headlines, Schneider demonstrates a solid grasp of the medical field and the ability to simplify technical concepts in a way even a novice can understand.
If I have any quibbles about the book, it’s that its medical terminology – such as abruptio plancentae – sent me scurrying to look them up in an outside source. Although the author did a fair job of explaining the term in the story without bogging it down, a reader with little knowledge of primary care medicine and epidemiology may be left struggling to understand what’s happening.
Schneider has written a gem of a book. I give Embryo five stars and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys medical thrillers. You’ll be left looking forward to reading more.
Embryo is now available at: