From a review of Alan Engel's Variants
... A strangely wizened boy desperately runs from Leningrad to Paris, where he hopes to find Dr. Irene Sailland, specialist in the genetics of aging. Cut to a month later: a KGB man is caught breaking into a morgue to steal the boy's body. Cut to L.A.: brain-researcher George Mulligan is interrupted in his lab by CIA-man Brent Ridgely, who asks Mulligan to fly to Paris to help autopsy the boy's body. The boy, it seems, suffered from progeria, a rare disease that radically speeds up aging; but he also, before he died, exhibited to Dr. Sailland incredible physical strength and an IQ near 500. Why, the CIA wants to know, was the KGB after his body? In Paris, Mulligan who tumbles in love with the willowy Dr. Sailland, collects some of the boy's brain tissue, which he brings back to L.A.--where KGB men break into his lab, beating up Mulligan and his partner and destroying the tissue. Meanwhile, Ridgely and an Army honcho meet: the boy, they realize, was a deliberate mutation, a Russian experiment gone awry in creating the perfect soldier. Then: another boy, Yuri, also a Superboy with progeria, turns up in Paris. Can Yuri, Mulligan, and Sailland together find the genetic keys to Yuri's mutant abilities (which the US Army wants in order to create its own supersoldiers) and a cure for progeria before the boy dies? A laboratory-based race against the clock, punctuated by several twists including the ludicrously contrived turn-up of the mad Russian doc behind the experiment, sets the stage for an oddly downbeat ending. Engel drenches his tale, told in smooth prose, in realistic medical lore. But the clumsily handled KGB/CIA/US-Army action--and a graphic, by-the-numbers sex scene--are only intrusive, with the preposterous, Sturm und Drang ending spoiling whatever realism Engel has previously wrought.
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