Book Review: Acts of the Apostles, John Sundman, 1999, Rosalita Associates, Tisbury MA, USA

Reviewed by Pete St. Onge
October 16, 2001

Sundman's first novel is a compelling vision of a present where the fundamental building blocks of life - DNA - are suddenly as easily modified as the icon on your desktop. His exploration of the inherent conflict between treasured freedom and the Faustian bargain proffered by powerful and forbidden technologies is lucid and convincing.

In very few other areas of scientific endeavor has the distinction between pure and applied research been so clearly visible, or the tension surrounding the goals and motives of public and corporate science ever been so great, as in the work on the human and other genomes. In an age where the basis of life itself has been patented and new species are created through genomic experiments, the stakes seem higher than they have ever been.

What happens, then, when such research leaves the foundation of public peer review and remains cloistered within the walls of private science? While this has often been the stuff of bad spy novels, Sundman's story doesn't fall prey to such simple, cliched characterizations and remains engrossing.

The book raises some interesting and important questions about the potential of bioinformatics as the lines between computing and genetics break down. "Acts" shows an unusual understanding of these highly technical subjects. The book is complex without being complicated, all the while remaining accessible. Sundman obviously "gets it" and more importantly, he gets it right - the result is an intelligent, credible story of action and intrigue reminiscent of Mamet's "Spanish Prisoner".

The first thirteen chapters of the book are online at