New York Times
David Plotz's history of the notorious Nobel Prize Sperm Bank, "The Genius Factory," could have been a pure romp. The characters are too larger-than-life, the events depicted too ridiculous not to be nonfiction: William Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor, jacking off to save the world from mediocrity? It doesn't get better than that. Or, Plotz could have confined himself to something more sobering. At the heart of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank's appeal was founder Robert Graham's belief that if smart people didn't make more babies, the world would be overcome by the dumb and infirm. His proposal to solve this problem, by stocking his bank with sperm from carefully selected geniuses, was nutty eugenic racism, but the day isn't far off when parents will be able to specify exactly what genes they do or don't want. Working out the law and ethics to handle such a future will be a gnarly challenge, and that alone provides grist enough for a book. But Plotz one-ups both approaches, and pulls off the tricky feat of taking readers on a trip both serious and silly. So we get hilarity, and Hitler. We get a brief history of eugenics, and we get Plotz himself entering a sperm bank's "masturborium" for some first-, uh, hand reporting on semen donation. (His contribution passes the bank's requirements, but he declines to become an actual donor.) In between the alarming and the absurd, we also get something more, something unexpected: an ongoing, fascinating and deeply felt meditation on fatherhood and family.
The Sunday Times of London
The human story is painful and brilliantly related.....This is not just another local tale of Amerian freakery, this is the story of a fundamental change in our attitudes to reproduction. Unpretentious, well organised, simply and readably told, this is a fine book about the human spirit and its indomitable pursuit of error.
Wall Street Journal
A wonderfully readable and eye-opening account...The story of this genetic experiment is a rare contribution to the debate over biotechnology, which usually ping-pongs between dystopians and techno-enthusiasts making broad, philosophical claims. By giving readers the case study of a serious -- and failed -- effort to engineer a better human race, Mr. Plotz brings the discussion back down to earth, where it belongs.
"Plotz's wonderful history of the Nobel sperm bank is filled with wit, pathos and insight."
CBS Sunday Morning
Another winning conversation piece in the weird science world is "The Genius Factory" by *David Plotz.* It's the true story of the so-called Nobel Prize sperm bank, an experiment in eugenics that was supposed to produce super babies. The book tells some sad stories about the offspring of the experiment, yet in the end, it's a very amusing account of how much went wrong.
"But while The Genius Factory does uncover an offbeat corner of American entrepreneurshipnot to mention, among other things, the fascinating US role in the rise of the eugenics movement in the early 20th century--the surprise is how, for all of the author's humor and skepticism, this is ultimately a moving, even tender, tribute to the multiple ways in which families are created, revised, and sustained."
"Is "The Genius Factory" a cautionary tale? An exposé? ...A fun, easy read? A sensitive portrayal of the lengths that people will go to create clan? The answer is all of the above."
"In our technologically accelerating age of still-raging debates on family values, culture and other dicey infusions of moral and social complexity into the realm of public health, Plotz's history, "The Genius Factory," isn't merely curious, it's useful."
"Beguiling....Plotz's take on the role of genes now -- in our imaginations and in fact, so far as we can determine that -- is humane and funny, which are fine traits for any argument, or any book."
"Plotz is a writer to watch. At its best The "Genius Factory" is both ariotous detective story and brilliant cultural analysis. It reads like vintage science fiction, filled with savage ironies that the most talented writer would have trouble making up...makes a great beach book, simultaneously fascinating and weird."
"The Genius Factory is a riveting account of a truly bizarre episode in American history--Robert Graham's crusade to save the human race. David Plotz has written a superb book about the quest for genius, and, ultimately, family."
--Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink
--Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players
"I want to start a Terrific Writers Sperm Bank, and the first seed I want in the inventory is David Plotz's. Plotz has it all. He's an incredible, unstoppable reporter -- unrelenting yet always fair and compassionate -- and a deft, witty writer. Plotz's account of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank is an absorbing, surprising, deeply human tale of deceit and megalomania, of hopes and dreams and eugenics gone wild."
--Mary Roach, author of Stiff
"One part detective story, one part cultural snapshot, and one part just plain weird, the tale of California's infamous Nobel Prize Sperm Bank is unexpectedly enthralling. David Plotz gives us the science, the business, the ambitions, and most especially the people: from founders to donors to mothers and children. A marvelous and thoroughly engaging read."
--Atul Gawande, author of Complications