Cloning Christ, by Peter Senese, Robert Geis

cloning-christ-by-peter-senese-robert-geis coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Orion Publishing and Media
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: two stars
Book Review by Heather Hunt

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First, the good news: Cloning Christ is an action-packed international thriller that races from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Rome, Bologna, the Swiss Alps, Edinburgh, the Isle of Skye, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Manhattan. Whew!

The descriptions of these locations are vivid and detailed, giving the reader the experience of traveling through the histories they represent through the ancient architecture, fabled streets, and classical monuments, especially of the European cities. The reader enters the inner halls of the Vatican as well as Mossad safe houses in Manhattan, swept along by the breathtaking plot of a fugitive on the run.

The second strength of the novel is its high-concept plot, which revolves around a disillusioned and broken-hearted geneticist named Max Train, who also has an interest in archeology. The novel begins with his dramatic discovery of what he identifies as the True Cross of Christ in a hill near the Mount of Olives.

Other people are aware of his find, including a corrupt cardinal close to the pope, who is fanatically afraid that Train will use the DNA from any flesh or hair remaining on the cross to try to clone Christ. Cardinal Mugant is a bit of a caricature, because we don’t know why he has such an irrational fear-unless it’s because he sold his soul to the devil.

Indeed, the devil does appear in this novel-as the international assassin Mugant hired to kill Train and retrieve the artifacts. This killer, who gets an adrenaline rush whenever he does a job, calls himself the Scorpion. In one scene, he even reenacts Christ’s temptation by imprisoning Train on a rooftop and promising him the world if he will give up the cross.

A third strength in the novel are its lengthy discussions among various characters as to the significance of the cross and what impact its possible discovery could have on the world’s religions. And even though Train never intended to try to clone Christ, there are discussions about what significance this would have. The fictitious pope even holds a press conference at the United Nations to talk about the Catholic Church’s standing on human cloning.

The bad news about this book is that it is not ready to publish. As an editor by trade, I usually put my pen down when reading fiction and ignore any errors. There are so many in this novel that I ended up reading it with pen in hand and marking up every page.

There are misspellings, inconsistent spellings, punctuation errors, including constant misuse of quotation marks, hyphens and dashes, and inconsistent measurements, including using both feet and meters on the same page and sometimes in the same paragraph! The book jacket and promotional material also have errors.

It is a shame that in the authors’ apparent rush to get this novel out in a timely manner, they neglected to give the manuscript to a professional copy editor-or even to run it through the simple spelling/grammar check that most word processing software comes with. Before recommending this otherwise intriguing, exciting, and challenging novel, I would need to see a new edition that has been professionally edited.

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