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REVIEW: Frameshift by Robert Sawyer

REVIEW SUMMARY: Hard Sci-Fi set in current times that delivers a solid story and good characters while asking some great questions about our ability to deal with genetics of the future.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A leading geneticist with a rare genetic disease ends up involved in a conspiracy involving cloning and an ex-Nazis hiding out. The novel also deals with morality of cloning, genetic tampering, and genetics as it relates to creationism.

PROS: Very thought-provoking, well done characters, great suspense.
CONS: Ending gets a bit disjoint as it splits between an action novel and a thriller. Not a serious problem, but one that suddenly seemed like a different book.
BOTTOM LINE: Strong book, one of the better treatments of genetics and the impacts on society. I really enjoyed the way it made me think about how our future might play out.

IN DEPTH: The most interesting themes explored in this book are the ethics of cloning – in this case, cloning a neanderthal ala Jurassic Park. The story includes this as an integral part and the shock upon learning about the nature of the baby’s DNA is very well done. I thought the characters approached this in a very believable manor.

There are also discussions the morality of basing insurance coverage on the outcome of genetic tests. The main character has a genetic disease (Huntington’s) and has trouble getting insurance coverage. The insurance companies have a reasonable concern – that insuring people with the Huntington’s gene, when it is 100% positive they will get the disease, is bad for business. But as the author describes, eventually we’ll be able to screen for nearly all tendencies (alcoholism, heat disease, obesity, etc.) and denying anyone except those with ‘perfect’ DNA sounds like Nazi propaganda.

Finally, there is the idea that our DNA acts like a computer program, potentially changing itself between generations in mass groups simultaneously. This would allow humans to change pretty much all at once to gain some new ability (such as telepathy.) I thought this was a great idea based in science – fantasy though it may be :).

2 Comments on REVIEW: Frameshift by Robert Sawyer

  1. What? No five out of five rating? Wait until what’s-er-name finds out!


  2. Robert J. Sawyer offers a structural analysis of Frameshift (with spoilers) over at his blog. [via kucinichworldpeace ]

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