“The Seventh Son” by Sebastian Faulks

This novel is set in the future so a significant change for Sebastian Faulks, best known for “Birdsong” among several more historical books. It starts in 2030 and ranges through to 2056 but the author is never too ambitious in his foresight of the future world, many mundane functions continue and the storyline is sprinkled with how our world may revolve in 30 years time. This makes the book a more acceptable read as one is never put off by thinking “is that believable?”, or “will that really happen?”

The main initial characters are American student, Talissa Adam and in the UK, Mary and Alaric Pedersen, a strong couple who are desperate to have a child. For financial reasons to enable her to enhance her academic career, Talissa agrees to beome a surrogate mother for the Pedersens, even forfeiting her developing relationship with Felix to fulfill this. Felix does continue into the story in later stages but in a much different and rather sad forlorn role.

In London, to where Talissa flies, she meets Mary and Alaric; even sharing a brief camping holiday in France to get to know each other. The medical fertilisation procedures are provided by the Parn Institute, owned by Lukas Parn, an Australian, a very successful domineering man with a lot of money who has farsighted ambitions about human life and genetics. Dr Malik Wood runs the clinic and follows his employers wishes and instructions. All is not exactly what Talissa, Mary and Alaric expected, but Parn’s deception is not revealed to the parents or Talissa until years later.

Talissa gives birth to a healthy boy, who is named Seth. Talissa flies back to the States and, as agreed, has no direct contact for the boy’s first 12 years. Seth has a happy childhood, doting parents and the Pedersen household provides a secure home for Seth, who like any youngster has some individualistic traits. When they do reunite after Mary invites Talissa to meet Seth; all goes smoothly it is only much later that Talissa uncovers the subterfuge of the Parn Institute and the book then centres on how all their lives and Seth’s evolve.

Seth grows up and becomes a qualified engineer. Talissa’s life in America moves through various relationships; her one constant is her best friend Susan, in whom she is able to confide. As matters take on their own momentum, Seth and Talissa becoming ever closer, his birth mother fulfilling a roll Mary cannot.

The ethics of the Parn Institute and the subsequent ramifications make this story readable. The initial years, which are not so much into the future could easily be now; the future sections, where the author plays with his readership, as to how the world changes, adds an extra dimension to the story of how Seth’s life develops and then is affected by events outside his control.

I enjoyed this book probably more so than I expected as dystopian fiction is not a favourite of mine, but then Sebastian Faulks is a very good storyteller and he makes his world fun and believable even if some events are somewhat more unsettling.