Sweetness #9:

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Sweetness #9
352 pages
In the opening pages of Sweetness #9, Stephan Eirik Clark's madcap first novel, narrator David Leveraux reveals his phobia: "Monkeys by any name. I feel their presence like a cold finger pressed into the base of the spine...." Which is unfortunate, since David works in a factory where squalling chimps are dosed with artificial flavors to gauge their toxicity. It's 1973, and though the titular sugar substitute's side effects are unknown, David tests it on himself and his wife, Betty. He observes troubling results in the lab but keeps mum, under pressure to win FDA approval for #9. Soon it becomes the nation's most popular sweetener. By 1988, Betty and the couple's two children are behaving oddly—gaining weight, refusing to use verbs—and suffering from existential malaise. Plagued by his conscience, David fears that his former company is trying to intimidate him—struggling in a world where it's awfully hard to tell the artificial from the real. 
— Katie Arnold-Ratliff