Friday, January 13, 2012

David Gaughran's "Transfection"

David Gaughran
various ebook formats, currently free

This is a fast paced little ebook, essentially a short story.  There's still plenty of story crammed into it for all its brief length.  The plot concerns one Dr. Carl Peters.  He's a molecular biologist working with genetically modified foods.  When a scare erupts following the announcement that GM foods can cause cancer, he manages to take advantage of the situation and get considerable research funding.  That's when his troubles really start.  He makes a discovery that costs him, in more ways than one.

 I'll not go into too much detail because I don't want to spoil the reading experience.  I also don't want this review to be longer than the ebook. 

Gaughran moves the story along at a fast pace.  He manages to flesh out the character of Peters quite well.  The other characters don't get a lot of time in the story, so they don't come across as three dimensional as Peters does.  Still, this is a short story, not a novel, and as such there is sufficient characterization.  Gaughran does a stellar job with Peters' graduate student Jim Glover, especially in what he doesn't say about him.  Instead the reader is left inferring certain things about Glover's character and the situation as a whole rather than being outright told about them.  I found this approach to be highly effective, making the ending more of a shock than it would have been if Gaughran had simply taken the easy way out and told us everything going on behind the scenes.  Instead, we piece together what actually happened based on the actions of one of the characters in the final scene, in particular the final sentence.  That's not something I've seen much of lately, and it was good to read an old fashioned twist in the last line.

There's enough story here that, if he were so inclined, Gaughran could probably expand this tale into a short novel.  I have no idea if he intends to do so.  The only thing that I really had trouble with was how quickly Peters got funding and how quickly he was fired from the university.  It seemed to me that those things were brushed over a bit too smoothly, and I got the impression Gaughran hasn't had much experience with either scientific funding agencies or university politics, at least not in the States (he's an Irishman living in Sweden).  I can tell you from personal experience, neither funding agencies nor university bureaucracies move swiftly.  (I know of one situation in which a university took nearly two years to fire a professor who couldn't keep his  hands to himself where the female students were concerned.)  Anyway, I digress.

That minor gripe aside, this was a fast paced and enjoyable read.  Gaughran has recently published a historical novel set in South America that I'll probably be looking at over at Adventures Fantastic later this year.  The price (at least for a while) on this ebook is unbeatable, so check it out.  It provides an introduction to a new author's work, one I hope to see more of in the future.

Let's Get Digital
David Gaughran
various ebook formats

In addition to writing fiction, Gaughran has become one of the leading proponents of digital self-publishing.  In addition to running a blog on the subject and commenting at places like The Passive Voice, he has written a how-to book summarizing all he's learned.  I've only read a little so far, so I'm not going to attempt to review it.  Nor am I going to endorse it for the same reason.  I'm not going to endorse a book I haven't finished, although I will say  what little I've read has been worth the time and cost.  I merely mention it here for those of you who are interested in going into indie publishing and aren't aware of this resource.  In other words, I'm performing a public service by making you aware of the book. 

When Gaughran emailed me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing "Transfection", promoting this book wasn't part of the deal. David, I hope you don't mind that I took the liberty of doing so.


  1. Thank you very much for the review. And of course I don't mind you mentioning my other books, that's very kind of you. Appreciated.

    1. You;re welcome. Somehow I didn't think you would object. :)