Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Early Review of Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

Title: Change Agent: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Scienct Fiction/Thriller
Format: Hardcover; 416 pages
Publisher: Dutton (April 18, 2017)
ISBN-10: 110198466X
ISBN-13: 978-1101984666
Author's website: http://thedaemon.com/
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes.

The year is 2045. Singapore is the current technology capital of the world, and genetic engineering is big business.Years ago, the UN decided to step in and regulate the industry and created the Genetic Modification Treaty. In 2038, the treaty was ratified in order to stop the global spread of unregulated genetic editing of human embryos. Illegal edits have become a black market cash cow, but critics fear genetic edits could have consequences that are yet unforeseen.

Kenneth Durand works for Interpol in the Genetic Crimes Division. He and his team have managed to shut down thousands of illicit embryo clinics world wide, hundreds of which belonged to the Huli jing, a well funded, disciplined, and extremely low-profile genediting cartel. The Huli jing have hidden what they do over the years behind the facade of a legitimate business called Trefoil, but Interpol has recently put two and two together. Marcus Wyckes, the leader of the Huli jing is now one of the world's most wanted men, and Kenneth Durand and his team have been tasked with the mission to find him. Wyckes and his gang have crossed a line as informants reveal they're using unwilling human test subjects many of whom have been killed by the tests performed. The Huli jing are a cruel lot whose preferred weapon of choice against those that stand in their way is poison--specifically custom designed synbiotoxins that are difficult to detect and maximize a victim's suffering.

Just days after his debriefing on the Huli jing, Kenneth finds out the hard way that synbiotoxins are not the only powerful weapon in the Huli jing's arsenal. A week after he is attacked, Kenneth wakes to discover his DNA and appearance have been dramatically ratified to mimic Wyckes'. He'd been administered a change agent which edited his genetic makeup in a way no one had ever believed survivable. The Huli jing had issued him a death sentence, but somehow he's survived, and now he's on the run not just from the Huli jing, but also his own people.

He now is a man with two missions--to stop the Huli jing and get his identity back.
This was a fun action-packed, fast paced, thrill ride of a read. The beginning of the story made me think it might go the route of the movie Face Off, just using a DNA identity/appearance switch instead of a face transplant, but that idea was quickly extinguished. There is no exchange of identities in this one just the wish to kill and pass off a dead agent as one of the governments most wanted criminals so they'd take him off their list. When Kenneth Durrand survives, however, the implications are mind boggling. It changes the face of everything.

One of the things I loved about this novel is that the author did so much research into the world of genetics. It encompasses so many surprising and innovative ideas and concepts that truly do exist. I was extremely impressed. While we've all heard of concept of designer babies, the thought of being able to modify an individual's DNA later in life would be extraordinary. While I would think some things would be more easily changed than others, such has hair and skin tone, I'd think the transformation would not be as instantaneous as what happened with Durrand. Plus, I think you'd run the risk of rejection and the irreversibility of some features, such as height and shape of the eyes, chin, ears and nose, once an individual has matured. I can't even begin to imagine the effects such genetic edits would have on individuals while things were being tested and sorted out, but I love the concept. You can see how this would open many topics for discussion in a book club setting and I love that.

Overall, I gave this story 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. It had a slow start, but once you get through the author's initial information dump, which he uses to initiate you into the world of the future he's created, things speed up significantly. It's already been optioned by Netflix and we'll have to wait and see if they make it into a movie or TV series, but I'm hoping for the latter. I could see so many more stories taking place in a world where people could change their identity. Oh, the possibilities. I just can't help but love it.

Notes to keep you in the know:
To learn more about epigentics, check out this article: http://www.whatisepigenetics.com/fundamentals/

To learn more about CRISPR, check out these articles:

If you're wondering about some of the genes Suarez referenced in his book, check out the human gene database: 

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