Ever heard of a genre called Lab Lit? I hadn’t either – and I consider myself something of a mild science nerd. Lab Lit is defined as “fiction depict[ing] realistic scientists as central characters and portray[ing] fairly realistic scientific practice or concepts.” Pretty cool, huh?
Check out the official Lab Lit website, http://www.LabLit.com for more information on this genre and a list of novels, films, plays, and TV shows considered to be Lab Lit. (I’ve also added a link to the side bar. According to the website, more novels, etc will be added to the list, so it might be worth checking out periodically for potential reads.) I was pleasantly surprised by the number of books, movies, and shows (I’m not much for plays) I’ve either already read/seen or are on my list to read/see.
Passage by Connie Willis is on the list of Lab Lit. I was in the middle of the book when I heard about the genre on the Nature podcast (I mentioned that I’m at *least* a mild science nerd, right?) and was tickled to see that I was already reading in the genre.
The main characters in the book are researching Near Death Experiences (NDEs) with the hypothesis that they are some sort of survival mechanism. They’re hoping to figure out A) if it really IS a survival mechanism, B) how it works, and C) how it can be used to revive patients that have coded (ie, died). A project is set up around a chemical that is able to simulate an NDE in human subjects. Their research project runs into trouble when problems arise with their volunteers – they all seem to either be too busy to come in, unsuitable psychologically, or quit. Rather than lose funding for the project, one of the researchers becomes a subject, and the story takes off from there.
The story has some pacing issues early on, in my opinion. Overall, it’s a pretty good read. The premise is laid out well, and the author is careful to stick to her guns about what is really going on.
I’d recommend this one, especially if you’re interested in the subjects of Near Death Experiences, life after death, or the scientific exploration of either of those subjects.