In which Cat Zero arrives on the scene; plus some other literary shenanigans

It’s nearly showtime: my third lab lit novel Cat Zero is about to be published! After a several-month delay due to issues of US distribution, I am pleased to confirm an official publication date of Tuesday 5 June!

Yes, that’s next Tuesday! Just today, as I was working from home on various academic tasks, the postman rang the doorbell and delivered a few boxes of books hot off the presses:

Cats in a box – no relation to Schrödinger’s

Set in present-day England, Cat Zero relates the tale of female virologist (Artie) who has to join forces with sexist mathematician (Simon) to solve a mysterious cat plague that might be more sinister than it first appears. The novel is a light-hearted thriller/whodunnit/romance/drama set firmly in the lab lit genre, jam-packed with scientists doing their science as an integral part of the plot. In fact, it’s probably the most science-y of all of my books.

My only frustration with what has otherwise been a painless process of editing and production is UK Amazon, which hasn’t responded to requests to upload the correct, current information about the book. So don’t be put off by that £18.50 price tag: the paperback price should be £9.99 (and Kindle is £3.99). The US Amazon site has the correct information.

Completely coincidentally, the publication date nicely coincides with several other geeky/sciencey/literary events I’m involved with in the coming fortnight, all of which are in London.


On Wednesday 6th June I will be speaking at London’s PubSci – seven years after being the guest speaker at their launch event. This time I’ll be delivering a new talk I’ve just started airing: Boffins, Beards, and B-Movies: An illustrated story of science stereotypes from Socrates to Sci-fi. Packed with examples and film clips, it’s a fun exploration of the portrayal of scientists in fiction, with a more serious message about how those stereotypes can actually impair the ability of scientists to be effective messengers about all the important and crucial work that science does for humanity.

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but there will be a whip-round to cover costs.

Fiction Lab 10th Anniversary

This month marks ten years since the launch of Fiction Lab at the Royal Institution, the world’s first monthly book group dedicated to lab lit fiction. It’s been a real pleasure presiding over this group for a decade. To celebrate, we’re throwing a special informal public event in the Ri Library on 11th June to discuss the relationship between science and literature over drinks (cash bar).

Joining me on the panel will be award-winning author Philip Ball, novelist and astrophysicist Pippa Goldschmidt and novelist and astronomer Stuart Clark, all of whom have been featured guests of honour at Fiction Lab over the years. In addition, we are pleased to welcome on the panel Stephen McGann, an actor, author and science communicator who’s currently starring as Dr Turner in the BBC hit series Call The Midwife.

Starting at 7 PM, this event is free to attend, although spaces are limited, and you can reserve your place here.

Waterstone’s Event

I’ll be one of the panellists in this 13th June event at Waterstone’s on Tottenham Court Road. From their blurb: Virtual Futures presents a panel discussion, and a series of short-story readings, on using near-future fiction to foster transformative conversations between scientists and other audiences. By imagining possible futures, near-future fiction has the capacity to seize on the science and technology currently researched in laboratory environments and take it just far enough that it can provoke audiences to think on impending potential implications for society. How can science fiction be used to create a self-reflexive capacity in scientists? How can fiction help communicate scientific research to the wider public? How can encounters between the arts, humanities, social sciences, and hard sciences and engineering be fostered?

As part of the underpinning project, three authors (not me) interacted with scientists at King’s College London and incorporated their work into short stories – a great idea.

The event starts at 6 PM for a 6.30 start – tickets can be purchased here for £6.

I’ll have books to sell and sign at all of these events, so please come along to one if you can and say hello!

More about Cat Zero

Here’s what some people have said about the book already:

Cat Zero is that rare beast, a racy novel with a sound scientific background. Postdocs will love it. Ph.D.s will gasp. And the general reader will enjoy a smart romantic thriller in which an intelligent, independent and, yes, beautiful, researcher confronts her demons while fighting to succeed in a male-dominated world. Will she find love along the way? Read it to find out—I did, and loved it!”
— Simon Mawer, author of Man Booker Prize-shortlisted The Glass Room, and Trapeze, The Fall and Mendel’s Dwarf

“Absolutely gripping. A fast-paced story that opens the lid on the secret world of the laboratory and shows us what scientists are really like—as human and fallible as the rest of us.”
— Pippa Goldschmidt, author of The Falling Sky and The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space

“A potent mix of science, thrills and romance… Fans of Michael Crichton will love it.”
— Mark Edwards, author of number-one bestsellers The Magpies and Because She Loves Me

“Within the stylish package of a pacy thriller, Jennifer Rohn gives us a glimpse of what it’s really like to work in a scientific laboratory: the academic rivalries and jealousies, the gender politics, the frustrations of painstaking experimental work and the excitement of new ideas and breakthroughs. For once in a science-based novel, everything here is plausible – which makes it all the more alarming, and all the more compelling.”
— Philip Ball, award-winning author of Critical Mass

“A mysterious outbreak of cat plague sends an intrepid virologist on a hunt to find the source of contagion in this gripping page-turner. Nobody writes about scientists quite like Jennifer Rohn, who captures not just the technical details of research, but also the complex humanity of the endeavor.”
—Jennifer Ouellette, Cocktail Physics

“Cat Zero weaves together the complicated, sometimes archaic, social hierarchies of researchers with the thrill of a new scientific discovery. But you don’t have to know anything about science to follow along with the mysteries in this book: Why are cats falling ill in Kent? What’s going on with Artie’s strange colleagues down the hall? And will she hook up with her postdoc—or should she stay away? At the end of the book, we have some answers. But like real scientific discovery, the end is just the start of a whole new set of possibilities.”
— Eva Amsen,

“This book purrs. It does that thing that cats do, playing with their toy, gently poking at it, softly lobbing it in the air, then, eventually, lunging. I’d recommend it for those who like the interplay of scientific lives, permeated with motives and mys-tery.”
— Grant Jacobs, Code For Life

“Very human scientists go about their lives and work, seamlessly blending into a fascinating tapestry as they try to solve the scientific mystery of a disease plaguing a cat population, which spills over into the human population. I loved getting to know the main character, Artie, a female scientist who deals with all of the plusses and pitfalls of being a woman, a scientist and a woman-in-science. Her personality shines through in Jennifer Rohn’s work.”
— Joanne Manaster, Read Science

“[T]he final chapters are absolute emotional roller coasters. I could not put the book down. I had to know how it ended. But I am not telling. You will have to find out for yourself. I give it five purrs and two paws up.”
— Susan Johnston, Goodreads

Here’s a spotlight on me and the novel that my lovely publishers, Bitingduck Press, sponsored in Publisher’s Weekly.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
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