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Mother Grimm
Catherine Wells
Roc Books, 347 pages

Mother Grimm
Catherine Wells
Catherine Wells was born in Los Angeles and later moved to Robinson, ND. She graduated from Jamestown College with a bachelor of arts degree in theater. In 1991, her first novel, The Earth Is All That Lasts, was published by Del Rey. A second and third books, Children of the Earth and The Earth Saver, conclude the trilogy. Catherine Wells resides in Tucson with her husband and two daughters where she manages a library for a science and technology company.

Catherine Wells Home Page
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Steven H Silver's Review of Mother Grimm

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A review by James Seidman

Mother Grimm is a perfect example of what happens when an author attempts to write outside of her area of expertise. Catherine Wells has created an interesting premise for this story, but a seriously flawed execution makes this book a mediocre work at best.

The story is set at the end of the twenty-first century. A virus, called "CM," has devastated the Earth's population since it appeared decades ago. The virus has a long incubation period of 15 to 20 years. Therefore, children can still live long enough to have more children, and so there are still people about.

Before the plague took the worst of its toll, a group built a sealed "biodome" in the plains of New Mexico. There, people live lives of normal length, but even inside there are isolated cases of the virus. Consequently, people live with almost face-to-face contact, and in constant fear of becoming ill. The medical staff in the biodome has evolved into a privileged class that effectively runs the entire government.

It is inside the biodome that we are introduced to Twila Grimm, a bright young woman who knows that she is unusual in some way. A fast-developing romance with a doctor leads her to learn that the Medical Authority is performing terribly unethical experiments on her in the attempt to find a cure. To stop these experiments, she flees outside the biodome.

She encounters two very different indigenous populations outside, both of which seem more like caricatures of cultures than anything realistic. While outside, she schemes and plots of a way to bring the corrupt head of the biodome's Medical Authority to justice.

The concept is interesting enough that it could almost compensate for the stilted writing and shallow characters. Unfortunately, the book has an even deeper flaw. Despite holding a day job managing a technology library for a large company, Wells apparently is not good at research. She has fundamental flaws in her understanding of virology, immunology, genetics, and computer networking. Therefore, I found my enjoyment of the story ruined by mistakes that a quick perusal of a freshman-level college textbook would have corrected. Since these subjects are fundamental to the plot, the whole story falls down as a completely unbelievable farce.

If you know nothing about these subjects, you may still enjoy Mother Grimm despite its other faults. However, with the large number of excellent science fiction books out there, I suspect that most people would be happier spending their dollars elsewhere.

Copyright © 1997 James Seidman

James Seidman is a busy technology manager at a Fortune 500 company, who needs the excuse of doing book reviews to give himself time to read. He lives with his wife, daughter, two dogs, and twenty-seven fish in Naperville, Illinois.

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