This captivating series of linked stories starts in the future and continues moving forward in time, exploring the ways plausible (if sometimes disturbing) advances in conception and birth options would change individual lives and the relationships between family members and lovers. The book spans several generations in the families of two devoted, but very different, best friends, Millie and Toni, who we meet in the first story. Each successive story features someone the reader has already met, making the implications of previous character choices, or in a few cases non-choices, poignantly clear.
Some characters stumble into relationships and parenting, others are highly purposeful. Some go down the old natural paths, others opt for high tech genetic enhancements for one or more of their children.
This is people centered science fiction, and almost all of the stories are thought provoking and don’t-want-to-stop-reading compelling. Most moving for me was finding out what happened to a genetically optimized “bottle baby”, meaning a fetus with traits chosen by his parents who was “carried to term” in a lab rather than a human womb. Gerard was orphaned before he was born and left unadopted in his “bottle” by the main characters of an especially haunting story. We meet Gerard again in another story much later in his life, as an adult, after he’d been raised in an institution setting among other orphans with genetic upgrades. Gerard has been living a perfectly constructed life, but now he’s grappling with the unexpected. A one night stand about 10 years ago resulted in a son he has only recently learned about, a boy who contrasts in marked and unexpected ways with the carefully planned son he’s raising with his wife.
I read an advanced review copy of this book supplied to me at no cost by the author. Review opinions are mine.