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Rainbow Rowell
Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World
Lev Grossman, Tiffany Reisz, Rachel Caine, Jen Zern, Heidi Tandy, Rukmini Pande, Samira Nadkarni, Wendy C. Fries, Jolie Fontenot, Randi Flanagan, Tish Beaty, Cyndy Aleo, Christina Lauren, V. Arrow, Brad Bell, Andrew Shaffer, Darren Wershler, Anne Jamison, Jules Wilkinson, R
Intuition - Allegra Goodman My first husband was a grad student in chemistry, and I worked for the university as an accountant for research funding during that time, so I've had a little exposure to the concept of the "research group." The central characters in Intuition are such a group, although theirs isn't academic. Under the direction of research biologist Marion Mendelssohn and oncologist Sandy Glass, a group of the professional/student hybrids known as "postdoctoral research associates" conduct studies related to cancer treatment at the Philpott Institute. A sudden reversal in the research fortunes of one postdoc, Cliff Bannaker, looks to be an exciting new discovery with great potential, but the rush to publish results leads to questioning by fellow postdoc (and Cliff's ex-girlfriend) Robin Decker. The questions raised lead to a formal government inquiry and jeopardized funding; meanwhile, other labs can't duplicate the published results, and the group's integrity is threatened from both inside and out. (It reminded me of the "cold fusion" controversy of almost twenty years ago.)

The science is integral to the story, but it's not hard-core; you don't need a biology or chemistry degree to understand the plot. However, I should note that if the concept of research on animals bothers you in any way, you may find some parts distressing. (The story is set in the late 1980's, and while I'm not up on these things, it's possible that some research of this type may involve computer simulations now; however, as I understand it, there's still a need for live subjects in some research. I am no expert and really would prefer not to debate the topic here.)

Even more than the science, though, Intuition concerns such themes as scientific ethics and office politics, and Allegra Goodman doesn't provide easy answers. She employs the perspectives of multiple characters, and doesn't draw a lot of stark lines. She leaves spaces in the characterizations to be filled in by the reader, and while that can sometimes annoy me as a reader who cares about character development, she's skilled enough to make it work for me, and I thought that the primary players were well-drawn, distinct and complex. There's ambiguity in the character relationships and the storytelling, and not all the questions get answered, but it doesn't feel like things are left unsettled or hanging in the end.

I thought that the plotline was intriguing and suspenseful, the characters were interesting, the themes and issues were though-provoking, and the writing was strong.