In Act One, an aging actress named Jane Snow is researching her role in a controversial film about a recently discovered genetic modification. The real-life procedure is proliferated by a mysterious organization known as The Group whose long-term plans are to reshape humanity. Some see them as benefactors while others see them as biological terrorists. Act One is about what happens when Jane and her manager, Barry Tenler (the point-of-view character), meet with members of The Group.
Like she did in her excellent novel Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress uses the fascinating science of genetic engineering as a springboard to a thought-provoking story. Act One raises interesting ethical questions as the ulterior motives of The Group unfold. Should we tinker with our DNA? Could there be situations where it would be acceptable? The answers are not always as clear cut as one would hope, an unfortunate circumstance seen from the perspective of realistically complex characters that draw you into the story. It’s difficult not to like a story that pushes all the science fictional buttons while making brutally honest observations about life. The Phoenix Pick edition of the story contains a behind-the-scenes introduction by the author that sheds some light on the story’s genesis and the research that accompanied it.