the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘genetic engineering

In Jon McGoran‘s new novel Spliced, the newest bio-hacking trend is a dangerous form of permanent body modification. Who needs piercings or tattoos, when you can get animal genes spliced into your own body? This thrilling novel follows teenagers Jimi and Del as they fall deeper than they ever expected into the world of the spliced. The rich can afford legal and safe splices, other who want the procedure go to illegal back alley clinics.  And just imagine the political backlash!   Are these genetically modified people, known as chimeras, superhuman? or are they no longer human, and no longer deserving of human rights?

Paste Magazine named Spliced one of the ten best YA books in September, and Booklist calls Spliced“suspenseful and scary…timely [and] thought-provoking”.  Spliced hits bookstore shelves on Sept 29th, and the audio book, narrated by Sophie Amoss, comes out the same day.

Jon has been writing about food and sustainability for over twenty years, and when he’s not writing and publishing non-fiction and satire, he writes eco-thrillers to play with ideas about how all easily all our technological advances can go horribly wrong. Because, well, we’re only human after all. Jon was kind enough to let me pick his brain about Spliced, The Philadelphia Liars Club, his work in ecological sustainability, and more. And speaking of Philadelphia, if you live in that city you can attend the Launch Party for Spliced, Oct 6 at Parkway Central Library. Click here for more info.

Let’s get to the interview!


Little Red Reviewer:
Your new novel, Spliced, is a thriller that revolves around the trendiest underground body modification of having animal genes illegally spliced into humans. Why would someone want to have animal genes spliced into their DNA? Do I get a cat’s night vision, a rattlesnake’s venomous bite, the regeneration abilities of a starfish? Sell me on why someone would want to do this to themselves.

Jon McGoran: Even in the book, the science is still pretty new, and for the most part, the people doing the splices, the ‘genies,’ are amateurs, so you don’t always know what you are going to get. The effects are generally superficial, although sometimes profound. Some chimeras do pick up other traits from the animals they are spliced with, but it’s not like a super power.

As to the reason why someone would do it, that was one of the questions that I thought was most interesting when I first came up with the idea for the book. I knew people would do this, and I do believe they probably will if it becomes possible like it is in the book. There are all sorts of body modifications out there, from tattoos and piercings and gauges to some that are much more extreme and elaborate. So part of the reason would parallel why people get those modifications. But with something like this, there would be as many reasons to do it as there are people doing it. For some it is a fashion statement or a symbol of rebellion, for others it is solidarity with the Earth’s rapidly dwindling wildlife, especially the species that are endangered or extinct. And some look at what humans have done to the Earth, and at times to each other, and they want to make it clear, on some level, that they don’t agree with what humanity has become.

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Space Lords, by Cordwainer Smith

Published in 1965

where I got it: purchased used

In a far future imagined by Cordwainer Smith,  an all powerful government, the Instrumentality, rules from the planet Norstrilia, and stays in power by being the sole producer of the anti-aging drug known as “stroon”.  With the help of faster than light travel, known as “planoforming”, humanity has colonized hundreds of thousands of planets.  Thanks to advances in genetic engineering, scientists can create animals in the shape of men. A cat, or a cow, or a bear or an elephant can have all the attributes of that animal such as strength or speed or appetite, all crammed into a human shaped being. Known as the underpeople, these animal people are not human and therefore have no rights. Used as servants and slaves, the underpeople are typically as ignored as the human lower castes they replaced. It takes care of the prickly problems of human rights, or not, as the case may be.

Most of these stories have poems or songs in them. And not the usual scifi fantasy badly put together stanzas with awkwardly forced rhymes and meter, these are little ditties that you actually want to sign.  I get the impression that Smith was, at heart, a hopeless romantic.  In a short yet wonderfully intimate prologue, Smith welcomes us to his world and offers some parallels to his short stories that we might be familiar with: Joan d’Arc, Dante’s Inferno, the story of Ali Baba, to name a few.  But don’t worry, you don’t need to be familiar or have ever even heard of any of those things to enjoy the magnificent fiction in Space Lords:

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.