Sebastian Faulks is a brilliant writer. His First World War novel Birdsong might even be a masterpiece. But his most recent book is, sadly, a dud. It’s a near-future science fiction story full of cliches (imagine a future world that uses high-speed ‘loops’ rather than air travel, or cars that — brace yourself — drive themselves, or even a world where hardly anyone eats meat). Enough of these are planted throughout the book to remind you that it’s set in the future.
The core story is about a couple going through IVF treatment at the hands of a secretive tech billionaire genius who decides to swap the father’s sperm sample for the DNA of a Neanderthal. The resulting child grows up to be an American president … no, that’s not in this story but it would have made a more interesting one. I read until the end hoping for some kind of surprise or twist or what used to be called “plot” and couldn’t find anything. Not recommended.