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For readers of Justin Cronin's The Passage, S J Watson's Before I go to Sleep and Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife, The Curiosity is a haunting love story in which a man frozen for 100 years wakes up in today's America to be hounded by tabloids, condemned by religious conservatives, and hunted by a presidential candidate while he strives to come to terms with his unique second life, one in which he falls in love with a beautiful scientist from a century after him. Maverick scientific genius Erastus Carthage has developed a technique to bring frozen simple-celled animals back to life. But when his Arctic research vessel discovers a body encased in an iceberg, he seizes the chance to apply his pioneering process to a human being. The man Carthage's lad awakens from death is Jeremiah Rice, a Massachusetts judge, who was born in 1868 and fell overboard in 1906. Jeremiah is an instant celebrity - chased by paparazzi, vilified by the religious right, and overwhelmed by a society he sees as brilliant and diverse but also vulgar and violent. As his only ally biologist Kate Philo attempts to protect him from financial and political exploitation, the two fall in love. Meanwhile, Jeremiah's time on earth is slipping away.
For his ambitious fiction debut, a contemporary reworking of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, Kiernan (Authentic Patriotism) has crafted an emotionally satisfying and brisk narrative about Jeremiah Rice, a Harvard-educated judge who drowned on a scientific expedition to the Arctic in 1906. His frozen corpse is found, intact in a large iceberg, in the present day by molecular biologist Kate Philo. The evil genius Erastus Carthage, who funded the expedition, successfully reanimates Rice before a media horde. It's a clever conceit, and Kiernan milks it for all it's worth: religiously motivated protestors lambaste the feat as "blasphemy"; the media goes into a predictable frenzy; even the scientists (largely) behave horrifically in their quest for fame and fortune except, of course, for the beautiful and kind-hearted Philo, and the even more perfect Rice, a symbol (and not much more) of a gentler, more innocent age, when people were less "vulgar." There's a sweet bit of romance between Philo and Rice, and Kiernan is good at making the science fiction sound like science fact. But the characters are never much more than mouthpieces for what appear to be the author's pieties. Still, this is a gripping novel with a clever conceit.