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Gene Cards is the first book in a new series by the author E. E. Giorgi, best known for her Track Presius mystery series. Her new book is labeled dystopian in genre, however having read it, I think it’s a complex futuristic techno-thriller at heart.
The story is set in the near future in the year 2056, in a time when human genes play the crucial role in defining who a person is, and as a consequence in splitting the world in two: those who have healthy gene are living a ‘normal’ life in an enclosed city, whereas the unlucky ones are outcasts from the society with no job, medical health or any sort positive outlook on life. They can’t even enter the protected city at all.
There is a catch, however. Those living in the city have fully surrendered to Q-net, the internet that knows everything about them. I guess it’s a small price to pay for the security and protection that the city gives the lucky healthy ones.
The main character, Skyler Donohue is a detective focusing on bio-threats and related criminal activities. Her latest case: find a well known hacker, Yulia Szymanski, who has just killed her latest boyfriend. Yulia is almost a genius. She manipulates genes, changes her own DNA to become somebody else every time she feels close to being discovered. And somehow she entered the city, which is a big no-no for DNA unfits like her kind.
While working on this case, Skyler also learns of a new bio-terrorist threat in the form of an unknown virus which is taking the lives of people in the city by storm. As much as she wants to be part of the team, she is not allowed as her boss has a chip on his shoulder about her being a loner, and especially for being gay (in fact her being gay plays a main part in the story, so pay attention to it – it’s not just a distracting sideline).
When things go really dire and the daughter of her direct supervisor and ex-partner is infected as well, Skyler knows that her help is needed and starts investigating on her own.
Little does she knows that the two cases she is working on at some point will intersect.
The story is very well written, and the fact that it’s a futuristic techno-thriller, made me like it even more (I love this genre). I do find the fact that it’s labeled a dystopian novel confusing, because it is anything but. Sure, the setting sounds dystopian (city of healthy vs outcasts, etc), however Skyler is not fighting the system as the main hero or heroine does in the usual dystopian novels. She is not a rebel who will wake up people about the abomination that is the society they are living in. She embraces it and uses it to her advantage to find the criminals.
And what I find scary is that this particular future is a real possibility for our society as well.
Gene therapy – check.
Non-existing online privacy – check.
A superpower internet (search engine) that everyone is using and embracing, which knows lots about each of us – check.
A multi-billion corporation who works with genetically modified organisms (GMO) which is on the road to become a monopoly – check.
Now all we need is learn everything there is to know about our DNA and start to manipulate our genomes (isn’t this already something that we are already looking into?), and the story in this book becomes not only plausible, but quite possible indeed.
Leaving scary future thoughts aside, I found Gene Cards a rewarding read, one that kept me glued to the pages throughout to see what comes next. And come they did – many suspenseful and nail biting moments.
I remember the one time when I realized something that Skyler also realized (but before we were officially told in the book) and I could literally feel the hairs on my arms stand up like touched by raw electricity. I felt just as betrayed as her and I’m only a reader!
Overall I can heartily recommend this book to any crime, mystery, suspense, futuristic, techno-thrillers and dystopian fiction lovers alike. Yes, indeed, it is quite a complex book that can be included in any of these genres with ease.