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A Novel

Written by Kevin GuilfoileAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Kevin Guilfoile



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On Sale: March 01, 2005
Pages: 336 | ISBN: 978-1-4000-4479-5
Published by : Vintage Knopf

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

A bereaved doctor undertakes a diabolical experiment in a shattering philosophical thriller that anticipates the moral, social, and metaphysical dilemmas science is poised to confront.Davis Moore is a fertility doctor in Chicago specializing in reproductive cloning, a controversial and closely regulated new practice, when his seventeen-year-old daughter is brutally raped and murdered. The case is investigated but never solved. Months later, Moore retrieves her belongings from the police, and finds among them a vial containing the killer’s DNA. Tormented by grief, Moore entertains a monstrous thought: the possibility of cloning not his daughter but the man who killed her. How far would you go to look into the face of your daughter’s murderer?

Justin Finn, at three, looks like any other child. Bright, joyful, sweet; an innocent toddler to his unsuspecting parents and to all who know him. But his face, one day, will be the exact match of the cold-blooded killer of whom he is a perfect genetic replica. Can a three-year-old have a past? Where does evil come from?

What happens to the soul when we die? What are you duplicating when you duplicate a human life?

Cast of Shadows is a spectacularly original, hair-raising novel about the fate of a little boy brought into the world to solve a crime. Relentlessly gripping, profoundly unsettling, and visionary, it introduces a major new suspense novelist.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Davis Moore is a fertility doctor in Chicago specializing in reproductive cloning. When his daughter is raped and murdered by an unknown assailant, he entertains a monstrous thought...


The detective was polite each morning when he called, and Davis feigned patience each morning when the detective, after small talk, confessed to having no leads. Well, not zero leads, exactly: A profile had been made of the attacker. The police believed he was white and fair-skinned. They had some general idea about his size, based on the placement of the bruises and the force exerted on her arm, breaking it in two, but that ruled out only the unusually short and the freakishly tall. They did not think he was obese, according to their reconstruction of the rape itself. He may or may not have been someone Anna Kat knew–probably not, because if she had been expecting someone that night she might have told somebody, but then again, who can say?

The Medical Examiner said the injuries were consistent with rape, but could not comment on whether the District Attorney would include sexual assault along with the murder charge when police apprehended a suspect. When Davis expressed outrage after that information had appeared in the paper, the detective settled him down and assured him that when a beaten, broken, strangled girl has fresh semen inside her, that’s a rape in the cops’ book no matter what the M.E. says and then he apologized for putting it that way, for being so goddamn insensitive, and then Davis had to reassure the detective. That’s all right. He didn’t want them to be sensitive. He wanted the police to be as angry and raw as he was. The detective understood that the Moores wanted a resolution. "We know you want closure, Dr. Moore, and so do we," he said. "Some of these cases take time."

Often, the police told the Moores, a friend of the victim will think aloud during questioning, "It’s probably nothing, you know, but there’s this strange guy who was always hanging around..." This time, none of Anna Kat’s friends could offer even a cynical theory. Fingerprints were too plentiful to be useful ("It’s the Gap," the detective said. "Everyone in town has had their palms on that countertop") and they were sure the perpetrator had worn gloves anyway, by the thickness of the bruises on her wrists and neck. Daniel Kinney, Anna Kat’s off-again boyfriend, was questioned three times. He was appropriately distraught and cooperative, submitting to a blood test and bringing his parents, but never a lawyer.

Blonde hairs were found at the scene and police determined they belonged to the killer by comparing the DNA to his semen. With no suspect sharing those same microscopic markers, however, the evidence was an answer to an unasked question. A proof without hypothesis. Before or during the rape, she had been beaten. During or possibly after the rape, she had been strangled. One arm and both legs were broken. Seven hundred and forty nine dollars were missing from a pair of registers and there might have been some clothes gone from the racks (the embarrassed store manager wasn’t sure about that, inventory being something of a mess, but it’s possible that a few pocket tees were taken. Extra Large. The police noted this in their profile).

Northwood panicked for a few weeks. The bakery, True Value, Coffee Nook, fruit stand, two ice cream parlors, six restaurants, three hairdressers, and two dozen or so other shops, including the Gap, of course (but not the White Hen), began closing at sundown. More spouses met their partners at the train, their cars in long queues parallel to the tracks each night. The cops put in for overtime, and the town borrowed officers from Glencoe. If you were under 18, you were home before curfew. The Chicago and Milwaukee TV stations made camp for awhile on Main Street (news producers determined that Oak Street, where the Gap shared the block with a carpet store, parking lot, and funeral home, didn’t provide enough "visual interest" and chose to shoot stand-ups around the corner where there was more pedestrian traffic and overall "quaintness"), but there turns out to be a limit to the number of nights you can report that there is, as yet, nothing to report, and TV crews disappeared as a group the day a Northwestern basketball player collapsed and died of an aneurysm during practice.

The old routine returned in time. By spring, Anna Kat might not have been forgotten–what with the softball team wearing the "AK" patch, the special appointment of Debbie Fuller to fill the vacancy of Student Council Secretary, and the three-page, full-color yearbook dedication all keeping her top of mind around campus–but Northwood became unafraid again. A horrible alien had killed on its streets; Northwood had been shattered, and the people made repairs. The town grieved and, like the alien, moved on.

***

Eighteen months after the murder, the detective told Davis (still calling twice a week) that he could pick up Anna Kat’s things. This doesn’t mean were giving up, he said. We have the evidence photographed, the DNA scanned. Phone ahead and we’ll have them ready. Like a pizza, Davis thought.

"I don’t want to see them," Jackie said. You don’t have to, he told her.

"Will you burn the clothes?" He promised he would.

"Will they ever find him, Dave?" He shook his head, shrugged, and shook his head again.

He imagined a big room with rows of shelves holding boxes of carpet fibers and photos and handwriting samples and taped confessions, evidence enough to convict half the North Shore of something or other. He thought there would be a window and, behind it, a chunky and gray flatfoot who would spin a clipboard in front of him and bark, "Shine heah. By numbah fouwa." Instead, he sat at the detective’s desk and the parcel was brought to him with condolences, wrapped in brown paper and tied with fraying twine.

He took it to his office at the clinic, closed the door, and cut the string with a pair of long-handled stainless-steel surgical scissors. The brown postal paper flattened into a square in the center of his desk and he put his hands on top of the pile of clothes, folded but unwashed. He picked up her blouse and examined the dried stains, both blood and the other kind. Her jeans had been knifed and torn from her body, ripped from the zipper through the crotch and halfway down the seams. Her panties were torn. Watch, ring, earrings, gold chain (broken), anklet. There were shoes, black and low-heeled, which they must have found near the body. With a shudder, Davis remembered those bare, mannequin feet.

There was something else, too.

Inside one of the shoes: a small plastic vial, rubber-stoppered and sealed with tape. A narrow sticker ran down the side with Anna Kat’s name and a bar code and the letters "UNSUB" written in blue marker, along with numbers and notations Davis couldn’t decipher. UNSUB, he knew, stood for "unidentified subject" which was the closest thing he had to a name for his enemy.

He recognized the contents, however, even in such a small quantity.

It was the milky-white fuel of his practice, swabbed and suctioned from inside his daughter’s body. A portion had been tested, no doubt–DNA mapped–and the excess stored here with the rest of the meager evidence. Surely they didn’t intend this to be mixed up in Anna Kat’s possessions. This stuff, for certain, did not belong to her.

He planned for a moment on returning to the police station and erupting at the detective. "This is why you haven’t found him! He’s still out there while you fumble around your desk, wrapping up tubes of rapist left-behind and handing them out to the fathers of dead girls like Secret Santa presents!"

The stuff in this tube, ordinarily in his workday so benign, had been a bludgeon used to attack his daughter, and his stomach could not have been more knotted if Davis had discovered a knife used to slit her throat. He had often thought of sperm and eggs–so carefully carted about the clinic, stored and cooled in antiseptic canisters–as being like plutonium: with power to be finessed and harnessed. The stuff in this tube, though, was weapons grade, and the monster that had wielded it remained smug and carefree.

There was more. A plastic bag with several short, blonde hairs torn out by the roots. These were also labeled UNSUB, presumably by a lab technician who had matched the DNA from the follicles to genetic markers in the semen. There were enough hairs to give Davis hope that AK had at least inflicted some pain, that she had ripped these from his scrotum with a violent yank of her fist.

Rubbing the baggie between his fingers, Davis conjured a diabolical thought. And once the thought had been invented, once his contemplation had made such an awful thing possible, he understood his choices were not between acting and doing nothing, but acting and intervening. By even imagining it, Davis had set the process in motion. Toppled the first domino.

He opened a heavy drawer in his credenza and tucked the vial and the plastic bag into the narrow space between the letter-sized hanging folders and the back wall of the cabinet.

In his head, the dominoes fell away from him, out of reach, collapsing into divergent branches with an accelerated tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.

***

Justin Finn, nine pounds, six ounces, was born on March 2 of the following year. Davis monitored the pregnancy with special care and everything had gone almost as described in Martha’s worn copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. There was a scary moment, in month six, when the child was thought to be having seizures, but they never recurred. It was the only time between fertilization and birth that Davis thought he might be exposed. Baby Justin showed no evidence of brain damage or epilepsy, and after the Finns took their happy family home, they sent Davis a box of cigars and a bottle of 25-year-old Macallan.

The house on Stone fell into predictable measures of hostility and calm. Davis and Jackie were frequently cruel to one another, but never violent. They were often kind, but never loving. An appointment was made with a counselor but the day came and went and they both pretended it had slipped their minds.

"I’ll reschedule it," said Jackie.

"I’ll do it," said Davis, generously relieving her of responsibility when the phone call was never made.

In the third month of the Finn pregnancy, Jackie had left to spend time with her sister in Seattle. "Just for a visit,"she said. Davis wondered if it were possible their marriage could end this way, without a declaration, but with Joan on a holiday from which she never returned. He didn’t always send the things she asked for–clothes and shoes, mostly–and she hardly ever asked for them twice. Jackie continued to fill the prescriptions he sent each month along with a generous check.

In Jackie’s absence, Davis avoided social, or even casual, conversation with Joan Burton. It had been fine for him to admire Dr. Burton, even to fantasize about her when he could be certain nothing would happen. Throughout his marriage, especially when Anna Kat was alive, Davis knew he was no more likely to enter into an affair than he was apt to find himself training for a moon mission, or playing fiddle in a bluegrass band. He wasn’t a cheater, therefore it was not possible that he could cheat. With Jackie away and their marriage undergoing an unstated dissolution, he could no longer say a relationship with Joan was impossible. He feared the moment, perhaps during a weekday lunch at Rossini’s, when their pupils might fix and the dominoes in his head would start toppling again: tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.

Jackie returned just before Christmas as if that had been her intention all along. She and Davis fell back into their marriage of few words. Davis restarted the small talk with Joan, even buying her a weekday lunch at Rossini’s.

Anna Kat had been dead for three years.


From the Hardcover edition.
Kevin Guilfoile|Author Q&A

About Kevin Guilfoile

Kevin Guilfoile - Cast of Shadows

Photo © Bryan Bedell

Kevin Guilfoile has written for McSweeney’s, Salon, The Morning News, and The New Republic. His first novel, Cast of Shadows, has been translated into more than fifteen languages. He lives in Chicago with his wife and children.

Author Q&A

Q: What was the genesis of this project? Did the complicated ethics involved in cloning strike you as good material for a thriller, or was the inclusion of cloning an afterthought? Did any newsmaking events inspire the premise?
A few years ago I saw one of the prosecutors in the OJ Simpson trial on television and I turned to my wife and said, “wouldn’t it be something if Christopher Darden had secretly cloned Nicole Simpson’s killer and fifteen years later he brought out this teenaged boy and said, ‘Does this little guy remind you of anyone?’” I started thinking about it as a concept for a novel and Cast of Shadows evolved from there.

Q: How much research was involved in this book? Talk a bit about how you approached the writing of it.
I did about the minimum amount of research I could, frankly (although I did give the manuscript to a doctor and a Chicago cop to make sure I got the big things right). I didn’t want the technical aspects of cloning to bog down the plot, which was why I set it in this just barely alternate universe where cloning is legal–if you accept the premise that human cloning is commonly used as a fertility treatment then you don’t need to be concerned with how Davis manages to clone AK’s killer. Once that decision was made, it opened the story up to the political and ethical debates in such a world and that in turn led to other revelations, like the character of Mickey.

Q: Where did Shadow World, the computer game featured prominently in the plot, come from? Do you think such a game is in our future–and if so, what kind of issues does it raise?
Initially I inserted it as a device to show the passing of time. One of the structural problems I had with the book was that it takes place over twenty years. If you accept that the start of the book is the present or the near future, then the end of the book must be twenty years on. I didn’t want to try to anticipate all the technical advances of the next two decades because I thought that would date the book very quickly. I wanted the world at the end of the story to feel not too different from the present. But I also wanted to acknowledge that time was passing and I thought if I introduced this game and then recognized the technical advances in Shadow World as years went by, the reader could feel time passing without being distracted by all the flying cars and light sabers and so forth. But once I had Shadow World, I realized it presented opportunities–for instance, a teenaged boy could be involved in a violent action sequence. I also became interested in exploring the “True-to-Life” idea as a parallel to cloning. Of course, in real life there are games that do a similar thing on a much smaller scale–The Sims for instance–and it’s not surprising to me that The Sims is the best-selling video game of all time. I don’t know if it will ever be taken to the extremes portrayed in the novel, but the connections Sally and Justin and Sam have with Shadow World feel genuine to me.

Q: Cast of Shadows offers some real social commentary–on cloning, religious radicalism, video games to name a few–was this one of your goals or just a function of the various turns the plot takes? How much of this did you intend?
I didn’t think to myself “I want to write a book that comments on this particular issue” and then sketch out the story. My main concern in writing CoS was to develop this situation and these characters and find out what happens to them. The political, ethical, and social issues were raised and considered in the course of the telling.

Q: Did you set out seeking to answer any particular question with this book? Was there any point that you wanted to make? If so, do you think you’ve accomplished this?
Normally if I sense a writer is going to lecture me I put the book down right away, so it’s pretty rare that I feel compelled to write because I want to tell somebody something. Even when I’m writing short humor (http://www.guilfoile.net/kevin.php) I generally write about things I’m still trying to work out in my head. I’d rather write stories that raise a lot of questions and then the reader and I are free to come to separate conclusions off the page.

Q: What, for you, is this book about?
For me it’s about how all our decisions (or nearly) are made with imperfect information. We are fated to live a life in which the number of things we know is dwarfed by the number of things we don’t. No one in this story knows the whole truth (even if they believe otherwise) and the decisions they make are frequently disastrous. Together they might have been able to connect all the dots but they never do. In the end it is Joan, still acting with incomplete information, who finally says, “Enough. It ends now.” Although that was done selfishly and it was certainly not the “right” thing to do (with respect to the fate of Sam Coyne of course, it’s tragic) in the context of everything that went before, I hope the reader feels a kind of relief.

Q: Talk a bit about the current scientific and moral debates of cloning, and where you think it’s poised to go. What is the most confounding question, in your opinion, facing us with respect to cloning?
Midway through Cast of Shadows Davis gives a speech in which he says:

“Walter and I debate this issue every time we get together. He suggests that just because we can clone human beings, doesn’t mean we should. I tell him he’s answered the wrong question. If we can do something–to increase health, to increase happiness–doesn’t that mean we must?”

I wouldn’t be in favor of cloning human beings, of course, but with respect to the current debate over stem cell research I think Davis makes a fairly persuasive argument in favor. We need to be mindful of where we will draw the lines in the future, but I don’t believe the existence of a slippery slope means we should ignore great things that might be possible as we try to make our the way safely down the mountain. Technology will always be opening doors we wish were half shut, but we should never become paralyzed by ideas. Nevertheless, cloning, like nuclear power, might be one of those scientific achievements we stumble upon before we are ready. I suppose Cast of Shadows could be read as a cautionary tale (and that’s the right of the reader), but I really only meant it as a story about particular people who make bad choices. The technology that enables them is incidental.

Q: Metaphysical questions feature in the plot–can a three year old have a past? Where does identity reside? Is it nature? Is it nurture? Was this something you wanted to cover?
I don’t pretend to be a philosopher. I am interested in philosophy. I have been a student of it. I’m a fan. I like to talk about it to the annoyance and amusement of my friends. But I like to talk about baseball, too. That doesn’t mean I think I could play shortstop for the Yankees. I love Walker Percy’s novels (and also Dostoevsky’s), which are largely concerned with similar existential issues, and I imagine most any novels I am lucky enough to complete will tackle similar themes. However, if I live to be 84, as old as Walker when he died, I don’t expect to have answers to those questions. The philosophical stuff is great fun, but it’s tangential. In the end all I’m really doing is making up stories.

Q: You present two sides to the argument over cloning–one, a reasoned look at the pro-cloning scientific community’s rationale, and the other from the perspective of a radically religious anti-cloning terrorist. Was the goal to present two extremes? Where do you stand on the issue?
My motivation for introducing Mickey and the anti-cloning movement was strictly practical–I didn’t want to waste a lot of time on exposition explaining the heated political climate of the novel. So I borrowed archetypes readers would recognize from the real-life debate on abortion, hoping people would say, “Okay, I know what this is like,” and that would give them a shorthand for what was going on. I wasn’t trying to comment specifically on cloning (or abortion for that matter). I took the idea of cloning and I tried to explore the different ways people might think about it, but I wasn’t advocating any of those perspectives necessarily.

Of course there’s a danger in trying to remain neutral when it comes to a character like Mickey. I understand there’s an old axiom of screenwriting that says you never let your villain give a speech justifying his actions. I gave Mickey a big old soapbox because I thought the most horrifying–and realistic–thing about him was the way he rationalized his actions. Very few readers will actually sympathize with him, I’m sure, but they can take comfort that the other insane characters in the book think Mickey is really crazy.

Q: Talk a bit about the character of Davis Moore–his concerns, the sorts of choices he faces and makes. On the one hand, he’s an ethical scientific pioneer; on the other hand, he’s a distraught father playing God with his powers.
To the world, Davis appears to be a brave person, but the choices he makes reveal him to be a man of little courage. He sets out impulsively on a course of action but finds all the subsequent consequences unacceptable. He becomes paralyzed. Nearly every path Davis takes is chosen for him by someone else. As a result of his fear, because he believes he has too much to lose, Justin is able to manipulate him. Justin is right–for Davis free will is an illusion–but this is only true because Davis allows it to be. Clearly Justin, Mickey, and ultimately Joan, make their own choices.

Q: Were there any interesting changes in plot, characters, etc as you wrote the book? If so, will you write a bit about them?

From the start with Cast of Shadows I wanted to play off people’s expectations of a genre thriller and in the original story, I thought it would be very clever to set up Sally as the hero of the book–the too smart character who would obviously be the one to figure everything out–and then kill her off almost immediately. That’s what I did in the original draft. Unfortunately that meant I had to reincarnate her in a different character for the second half of the book. I give Jordan* credit for helping me see that was ridiculous. Sally lived and the two characters were merged into one. Much, much better. Also, the second half of the book (up until the last fifty pages or so) is very different from my original outline, largely because of the places Shadow World took it.

* Jordan Pavlin is Guilfoile's editor


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

"A spellbinding novel. . . . Mature, intelligent, stylishly written and more than a little bit dark." —Chicago Tribune

"Striking. . . . Guilfoile's tricky, high-concept plot continually subverts and plays with the reader's expectations. . . . Gripping." —The New York Times

"A masterpiece of intelligent plotting. . . . A rare thriller that dares to make telling the difference between right and wrong, fate and choice, as difficult as it is in real life." —Salon

“Always surprising. . . . Complete with elegant prose and well-developed characters.” —The New York Times Book Review
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

“A spellbinding novel. . . . Mature, intelligent, stylishly written.” —Chicago Tribune

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Cast of Shadows, a terrifying suspense novel about a father’s obsession with confronting his daughter’s murderer—even if it means betraying his personal and professional ethics and destroying the life of someone else’s child.

About the Guide

Davis Moore is a fertility doctor in Chicago specializing in reproductive cloning, a controversial and closely regulated new practice, when his seventeen-year-old daughter is brutally raped and murdered. The case is investigated but never solved. Months later, Moore retrieves her belongings from the police and finds among them a vial containing the killer’s DNA. Tormented by grief, Moore entertains a monstrous thought: the possibility of cloning not his daughter but the man who killed her. How far would you go to look into the face of your daughter’s murderer?

Justin Finn, at three, looks like any other child. Bright, joyful, and sweet, he is simply an innocent toddler to his unsuspecting parents and to all who know him. But his face will one day be the exact match of the cold-blooded killer of whom he is a perfect genetic replica.

Cast of Shadows is a spectacularly original, hair-raising philosophical thriller that anticipates the moral, social, and metaphysical dilemmas that science must inevitably confront. Relentlessly gripping, profoundly unsettling, and visionary, it introduces a major new suspense novelist.

About the Author

Kevin Guilfoile has written for McSweeney’s, Salon, and The New Republic. He lives in Chicago with his wife and child.

Discussion Guides

1. “A lot of people, particularly women, still find the idea of their genetic duplicate to be a little unsettling. An old classmate of mine wrote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine last year claiming some relationship between this phenomenon and female self-image” [p. 7]. Do you agree that women are more disturbed by the idea of cloning than men are? If so, what reasons—beyond self-image—might account for this?

2. Davis spells out the strict guidelines governing human cloning for the Finns [pp. 6–9]. Do these regulations adequately cover all the ramifications of cloning a human? Do Davis’s approach and the reactions of Martha and Terry [p. 10] raise questions about the screening process and other aspects of the system?

3. Is Davis’s overwhelming need “to look into the eyes of his daughter’s murderer” [p. 62] the normal reaction of a grieving father? How realistic is his assumption that confronting the killer will bring an end to his suffering and restore his and Jackie’s happiness?

4. The anti-cloning movement is presented from the point of view of Mickey the Gerund [pp. 46–50, for example]. How does this influence the reader’s impression of the movement? To what extent does Guilfoile draw distinctions between Mickey’s fanaticism and more sympathetic arguments opposing cloning? What parallels are there between Mickey’s attitudes and tactics and those of current anti-abortion protesters?

5. How does the Finns’ relationship with each other affect their attitudes about Justin? Is Terry’s interest in tracing the DNA donor understandable, or are his motives suspect? Why is Martha so confident that Justin will “get more of his personality from us than he will from some mystery man” [p. 53]? What does her attitude reflect about her attachment to Justin? What does it reveal about her own needs as a mother? At what point in the novel do her feelings change, and why?

6. Does your opinion of Davis change as the novel progresses? What particular incidents make him a sympathetic character? To what extent are his difficulties the result of selfishness or arrogance?

7. Is it unethical of Davis to ask Joan to keep his secret [pp. 71–72]? Does she acquiesce because she agrees with his argument? Are they primarily concerned with protecting Justin, or is it equally important to them to safeguard their reputations and their practices? When Davis later lies to his lawyer about the nature of his experiment [p. 163], is he motivated by fear or by what he believes is an inviolable ethical obligation to Justin?

8. When Justin exhibits violent tendencies at age seven, Davis dismisses it—“He’s a kid. Kids get in trouble”—and declares with confidence, “Genetics have nothing to do with it. . . . If there’s ever been a killer who had a killer for a son, it’s because the child learned the behavior from his pop. . . . Not because he scored the evil gene” [p. 97]. Why does his certainty gradually erode? Is it possible for Davis to be objective about the nature vs. nurture issue?

9. Guilfoile portrays Justin at various ages, charting both his extraordinary intelligence and his increasing tendency toward violence. How does this technique help to create an escalating sense of suspense? How does it set the groundwork for the ultimate confrontation between Justin and Davis [p. 203]? What does their conversation at this clandestine meeting reveal about each of them? Does the balance of power between them change?

10. Why does Guilfoile introduce the computer game Shadow World? Is it an effective plot device? How does it enhance the themes of the novel? How does it relate to the novel’s title? What other interpretations of the title does the author suggest, either directly or indirectly?

11. Justin says, “We’re not made up of our thoughts, you know, even though that’s the only way most of us can approach the question of identity” [p. 212]. Do you think it is necessary, as Justin maintains, to separate the thinker from his thoughts? Does he offer a credible alternative theory about how humans develop a sense of individuality and identity? What role does this, along with his contention that there is no such thing as free will, play in his quest to expose Sam Coyne? How does it affect the decision he eventually makes about his own life?

12. At the conference sponsored by the California Association of Libertarian Scientists, Davis contrasts his approach to that of a colleague: “He suggests that just because we can clone human beings doesn’t mean we should. I tell him he’s answered the wrong question. If we can do something—to increase health, to increase happiness—doesn’t that mean we must?” [p. 179]. Looking at this question in terms not only of cloning but also other radical medical procedures, which viewpoint is closer to your own? What experiences, religious beliefs, or personal philosophies support your position?

13. Mickey and Davis are both driven men, ignoring the law and the rules of society to achieve their ends. In what ways are their motivations and their methods similar? Does the fact that Davis’s quest is grounded in science and Mickey’s in religious belief make an essential difference in the validity and morality of their actions?

14. For Davis, an agnostic, “cloning was never about playing God. It was about replicating God’s work, following the blueprints of God’s greatest achievement and creating life” [p. 139]. After bringing Justin into the world and watching him grow up, however, Davis is forced to confront the enormity of his actions: “Justin was not conceived in a lab or in the womb but in Davis’s mind. He existed because Davis had wanted him to, and what kind of being does that describe if not a god?” [p. 240]. What are the implications of Davis’s confusion, both in terms of the novel and in a wider sense?

15. Cast of Shadows ends with a surprising confession. Do you find this a satisfactory conclusion? What light does it shed on the philosophical and scientific certainties that inform discussions about the balance between genetics and environment in shaping character? What do you think is the ultimate message of the novel?

Suggested Readings

John Case, The Genesis Code; Robin Cook, Seizure; Ken Follett, The Third Twin; Kathleen Ann Goonan, The Bones of Time; Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Eva Hoffman, The Secret; Aldous Huxley, Brave New World; Ira Levin, The Boys from Brazil; Simon Mawer, Mendel’s Dwarf; Harry Mulisch, The Procedure; Richard Powers, Gold Bug Variations; Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me; Fay Weldon, The Cloning of Joanna May.

  • Cast of Shadows by Kevin Guilfoile
  • May 23, 2006
  • Fiction - Thrillers; Fiction
  • Vintage
  • $13.95
  • 9781400078264

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