“If you think the research will stop, think again … One day, everyone will have [implanted tracking] chips, and cloning and gene editing will be commonplace … We will be able to create superior human capabilities that surpass anything you can imagine.”

Sounds like a wonderful world: tracking devices to help find missing children, protect against identity theft, provide instant access to medical information in the event of an emergency. The list goes on.

But without legal authorization, who gives researchers, technicians, scientists and others the right to, in effect, play God by manipulating people through cloning and tracking devices? And can playing God be used for power, control and personal gain rather than the advancement of humanity?

These are some of the themes raised in Linda Kennedy’s debut novel, The Number of Man, book one in a planned trilogy.

The story revolves around Natalie Combs, a Los Angeles college student who is writing her term paper on human ID tracking chips. Around the same time, perhaps coincidentally, she decides to open a box left by her parents, who were killed years earlier in a car accident — the details of which don’t quite add up.  She discovers a journal in which her mother reveals that Natalie was adopted — a secret kept from her for a variety of untold reasons.

This prompts Natalie’s desire to seek out her biological parents, leading her to files in the care of St. Catherine’s Hospital, working in concert with two organizations: Science Matters, where cloning research and experimentation take place under the direction of twins, Doctors Gary and Matthew Venson; and Colonial Works, which develops implanted tracking chips under the guidance of Eleanor Jacobs, source of the introductory quote above.

The more Natalie digs, the more she finds out about a strange baby experiment in 1989 to test cloning technology. Apparently, Natalie was one of the few survivors of that project, now still living into her twenties.

Her research takes her to Professor Kyle, who around 1989 was conducting a class on the topic and was involved with the Vensons in some way. When he meets her, he is dumbfounded: “I used to know a young lady. Forgive me. You are the spitting image of her. Forgive my stare.”

He adds, “Now I know why you look like her. You are that child.”

Things continue to confound: 

  • Her father was reported to have been driving while drinking when his car crashed — totally uncharacteristic for him.
  • Natalie constantly feels she is being watched. 
  • A detective, Kevin Nobles, is hired by the Vensons to conduct surveillance on her, but he seems to have his own agenda.
  • A friend and possible love interest, Jake Jacobs, seems supportive but is not revealing, as Natalie gets closer to Colonial Works, that Eleanor is his mother.

Kennedy keeps readers guessing throughout: Who exactly is Natalie? Why is she being monitored? What will she discover about the cloning and tracking organizations, and what will that tell her about herself? What are the Vensons and Eleanor Jacobs after? Who are Natalie’s friends and foes?

The Number of Man tackles a number of heady issues, with plenty of religious and spiritual overtones. In creating a fast-paced story and a cast of intriguing characters, she invites readers on a fun ride where they have the opportunity to draw their own conclusions.

The Number of Man is available for purchase. Visit Linda Kennedy’s BookTrib author profile page.

Linda Kennedy was born one of five children to missionaries in Nigeria, West Africa. She has enjoyed writing poetry and songs since an early age. The idea for The Number of Man, her debut novel, came to her over 20 years ago; however, it wasn’t until becoming disabled and after two failed back surgeries that she sat down and wrote it. This is the first novel in a planned series. She lives in Jefferson City, MO.