Sebastian Faulks’s new novel, The Seventh Son, presents an ambitious and fascinating plot spanning several decades in the near future. The action begins in 2030. Talissa Adam is an American academic working in palaeoanthropology, struggling to land a postdoctoral fellowship. She has a particular interest in what appears to be a new human species, Homo vannesiensis.
Having been turned down for a position at the Parn Institute in London, Talissa discovers that the institute is seeking volunteers for a study into surrogate mothers and IVF. She breezily volunteers to be a surrogate as a means of funding her career aspirations. Despite the concerns of others, Talissa feels that this is a straightforward, utilitarian decision: the baby will ‘bring joy to its parents and employment to her’. Soon she is matched with the parents seeking a surrogate: Alaric and Mary Pedersen, a history teacher and a chef living in south London.
Lurking behind this initiative, however, is Lukas Parn, an Australian billionaire who funds the institute. Parn is fascinated by evolution and inexplicable leaps in human development. Questioning Darwin, he believes that ‘the superiority of Homo sapiens hasn’t yet been explained’ and wishes to discover whether other human species have ‘the