the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘genetics

It was just last week that I interviewed Jon McGoran, author of the new YA novel Spliced.  What lovely timing to be hosting a guest review of Spliced today!  My very good friend Kristin Centorcelli, enjoyed the hell out of Spliced. And I’ll bet her name sounds familiar to a lot of you . . .

** Edited to add – Jon McGoran is also over at John Scalzi’s Whatever blog today, talking about the Big Idea behind Sliced.  The interview, this review, the Big Idea at Whatever? Trifecta of Sliced goodness! **

Kristin Centorcelli ran My Bookish Ways, wrote and edited for SF Signal, and now reviews for Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and Criminal Element. She also hoards books and expects that, at some point, the hoard will collapse, and her body will be found under mountains of them. She’s ok with this.

 

Spliced, by Jon McGoran

available on Sept 29th, 2017

Guest reviewed by Kristin Centorcelli

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Full disclosure: I haven’t read a book by Jon McGoran that I didn’t like, and when I heard he was delving into YA territory, I was intrigued, and excited! My excitement was warranted, because he brings all of the environmentally conscious elements of his writing to the table, throws in some very cool science, and gives us a hell of a heroine in the process. Spliced takes place in and around Philadelphia, in what I’m guessing is the fairly near future: there are mail drones (and police drones) buzzing around, people live clustered together in cities, with the outer neighborhoods, dubbed “zurbs,” having crumbled under environmental onslaught. Think buckled sidewalks, swimming pools as hazards, and lots of greenery, except where coal wells have poisoned the land with their output. People do live in the zurbs, and some even thrive, growing their own food and using solar power, but for the most part, it’s considered a wild place, dangerous even.

 

But!

What you want to know about is splicing and chimeras, right? Splicing involves injecting non-human DNA into humans, creating strange/scary/beautiful results, aka chimeras. Our 16-year-old heroine, Jimi, wants nothing to do with splicing, but her best friend (and maybe more?) Del, shows her a new tat he got of an iguana, which comes as a surprise to Jimi, but she puts it aside as harmless rebellion, until Del goes missing after a confrontation with the police, who are generally not very tolerant of chimeras, and Del was hanging out with a group of them at the time. Jimi’s interference gets her in some trouble, and it also gets her sent to stay with her Aunt Trudy out in the zurbs. It sucks, but all Jimi can think about is finding Del. She’s worried that he’s gotten spliced, and her worries aren’t unfounded. In fact, the worst has happened, and Jimi must find a way to help Del before it’s too late.

 

In seeking to help Del, Jimi gets a helping hand by a chimera named Rex, and is introduced to his diverse group of friends. They’ve been squatting in the zurbs, and lead a hand to mouth existence. They already suffer from somewhat of an outsider status, but it’s made worse when legislation called the Genetic Heritage Act is signed into law, effectively declaring chimeras non-humans. It’s a disgusting piece of work, and it’s igniting violence all over the city, targeting the very people that Jimi has begun to call her friends.

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darwins radio bearDarwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear

published 1999

where I got it: purchased used

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I talked about this book a little while ago, about how it worked so damn well. I finished the novel shortly after posting that blog post, it just took me forever to write the actual review!

 

Pregnant women are losing their babies.  All across the globe, women are miscarrying at staggering rates, some so early in their pregnancies they didn’t even know they were expecting.  When I first read the back cover of Darwin’s Radio, my first thought was “terrible pregnancies? Is this a book about something like Zika?”  Of course it isn’t. Darwin’s Radio was written in 1999, and it won the 2000 Nebula and Endeavor awards.

 

At first, it’s assumed it’s a virus of some sort that is causing the miscarriages.  CDC Investigator Christopher Dicken is used to travelling the globe, seeing the worst viruses in action.  But this doesn’t act like any virus he’s ever seen.   Meanwhile, molecular biologist Kaye Lang has published a handful of papers on ancient retroviruses found in the human genome, papers that push her to the fringe of academia. Not exactly viruses, these are genetic markers that go into action when triggered. But triggered to do what? And triggered by what?   At the same time, discredited archaeologist Mitch Rafelson has been doing his own secret research, except he doesn’t yet understand what he sees in the mummies in an ice cave.

 

When Lang is brought in to consult on a mass grave, the wheels start turning in her head, because what she’s seeing doesn’t make sense. Why would a village murder the pregnant wives? And why did the same thing happen 40 years ago? And why are there current reports of mass violence against pregnant women and women who recently miscarriage? This is not how civilized modern civilization acts!

 

This isn’t a super fast paced book, or an action thriller,  but the speed and intensity comes into play with how fast their ideas and theories take shape, and how fast that information can be shared with others who can put it to good use. Bear fully fleshes out the three main characters Kaye, Christopher, and Mitch, introducing other supportive characters as needed, and educates the reader about genetics and biology through conversation between characters instead of through infodumping.  Bear writes in a way that makes complicated science and biology accessible to any reader. You can go into this book with zero knowledge of genetics, biology, and how diseases work, and come out of it with just enough knowledge to be a bit dangerous.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a science heavy, hard science fiction thriller. But Bear also subtly deals with grief, scientific academia, mob mentalities, and what we talk about when we talk about evolution.

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caline conspiracyThe Caline Conspiracy, by M.H. Mead

published in 2012

where I got it: received review copy from the author (thanks!)

 

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Do you like mystery thrillers?  Do you like smartly written characters involved with right around the corner technology? Do you find yourself having to balance day time stuff chaos with family chaos?

 

I just heard a lot of Yeses.   The Caline Conspiracy, part of the Detroit Next series by M.H. Mead, is a book for you! (Check out my interview with Alex Kourvo, who is half of the M.H. Mead writing team)

 

In the near future, messing around with human genetics is frowned upon, but messing with animal genetics is big business. Realizing how much we spend on our pets, the newest and most lucrative trend are genetically modified pets.  Calines, which look like a small dog, but include canine and feline genetics, offer the loyalty of a dog, the intelligence of a young child, the cuddle factor of a cat, and are completely hypoallergenic.  Calines are expensive as heck, but they truly are the perfect pet.

 

Private investigator Aidra Scott’s newest client is the very recently widowed Gloria Frithke. Mrs. Frithke’s husband was found dead in their home, his throat torn out and the family caline standing nearby.  The pet did it, of course. But Gloria is convinced there is something bigger going on. Can Aidra get to the bottom of the mystery before the evidence is destroyed, and Mr. Frithke’s research is lost forever?

 

At first blush, looks like a standard mystery novel with a few speculative fiction elements, right? Well…… Almost.   Along with the expected trappings of your standard mystery thriller, things like great pacing, chapters that end on smartly written cliffhangers, spying on people, and sneaky PI stuff, The Caline Conspiracy has well-presented scifi tech that blends seamlessly into the plot, excellent worldbuilding, and one of my new favorite protagonists: Aidra Scott.

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  Xulai (Shoo-Lie, rhymes with July. Isn’t that a cool name??) lives as a servant in the household of Duke Justinian and his Tingawan wife Princess Xu-i-Lok. After they were married and the Princess learned she had been cursed, they requested a soul carrier from her Tingawan homeland. Xulai is that soul carrier. Appearing as a child of seven or eight, Xulai’s only use in life is to be with the Princess when she dies (which could be any moment), and then return to Tingawa with the Princess’s soul. In the meantime, Xulai is taught and protected by Precious Wind, who came with her from Tingawa, and Bear, a Tingawan Warrior. Early on, when we first meet Xulai, she is approached by an unusual traveler, Abasio, and his even more unusual talking horse, Blue. Abasio and Blue will prove to be the best part of the story. 

The Princess does die, and she does give her soul (and something else) to Xulai. Tingawa lies across the sea, and it is decided the safest way to get there is to travel to the southern end of the continent to a port city where a Tingawan ship is waiting. It is of the utmost importance that Xulai reach Tingawa. But the roads are dangerous, and on the way they stop at the abbey, which seems more a center of population than a religious center. There is corruption afoot, as the Queen of the realm, Mirami, and her daugher, Alicia, are constantly fighting each other for power. When Precious Wind and Abasio learn they have been betrayed at the abbey, the party continues south, even more cautious than before.

Much of the plot revolves around the journey south and avoiding Mirami, Alicia, and their mentor the Dark Old Man. Xulai may appear as a child, but she is older than she looks. In fact, many of the characters are not what they appear to be. Once Xulai discovers who and what she is, plans must be laid to keep the truth safe. Read the rest of this entry »


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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.