Posts tagged: MITSFS

Book Reviews!

So I’ve actually managed to read two books recently, and am going to review them (gee, really? I’d never have guessed from the title of this post), especially because I feel, at least a little bit, as though I’d not have actually been able to finish the books if our gracious Skinner hadn’t allowed me to check them out from the library.

First off, Next by Michael Crichton:

If you’ve ever seen “Crash” or “Love Actually,” “Next” follows a similar structure of interleaving story lines every which way, although with slightly more focus on a convergence of a few of the stories, towards the end. The stories are fictional, but they are nonetheless grounded in varying levels of fact; each story centers around some issue of the current state of some aspect of biology research. One story draws attention to illicit organ-harvesting. Another brings chimerism to the reader’s attention. (Here, I would link to the wikipedia article about chimerism, but frankly, it sucks.) Multiple stories revolve around DNA testing and gene patenting, which was most recently in the news when the patent on BRCA1 and BRCA2 was overturned. Gerard, a talking African grey (parrot), raises the animal research issues, as does the story of a transgenic ape, and the idea of manufacturing transgenic animals for use in advertising or as pets, which was also recently in the news (check out the gallery). And perhaps one of the most frightening storylines tells of a mother and her son who are pursued by a bounty hunter intent on forcibly harvesting cells from their bodies because her father’s cells produce cytokines that seem to fight cancer; because his cells were bought (arguably illicitly) by a company, they then argue that they have a right to repossess those cells wherever they may occur, including in the source’s descendants.

Personally, I enjoyed the book, despite its abrupt jumps from one plotline to another, because it explores so many of the controversies that surround the field of biotechnology in this day and age. Some of the imagined possibilities seem quite ludicrous, but when you look at the news, it is disturbing to realize the extent to which some of the possible situations delineated in the novel are actually taking place around us. While is it true that the stories center around biology and people interested in such may be more interested in this book, I think that it has value both as a thriller and as a mechanism for bringing many current bioethics issues to the public’s attention.

And now, Feed, by Mira Grant — hmm, I just noticed that both of the books have monosyllabic titles…anyway! — the review:

This book was amazing. Totally full of awesome, is what I’d say. When I finished the book, I was in denial that the book was over, so I kept reading into the question-and-answer section, where Grant answers some questions about the novel and its sequel (to which my reaction was “OMG there’s a sequel squee!”) and the excerpt from the sequel. Arguably, this was a mistake, because it’s gotten me way too excited for the sequel because I thought this book was phenomenal. (Sadly, Deadline, the sequel, is currently slated for a May 2011 release date.)

Anyway, at this point you’re probably thinking to yourself, “okay, so you claim that it’s ‘totally full of awesome,’ but where’s the evidence? What’s this book actually about?” Well, it centers around three bloggers in the post-apocalyptic world, circa twenty-five years after the emergence of a virus that takes over dead or otherwise vulnerable bodies and causes them to mindlessly aid in its propagation. Bloggers have gained attention in this world because they were the first ones to report on the zombie outbreaks when everyone else was still in denial about the existence of the virus.

The relationships between the characters and the mystery in the story are only the topmost layer of what makes this book as great as it is. I found similarities to Joss Whedon, superficially, in the naming of one of the main characters after Buffy of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” but more deeply, in the juxtapositions of heaping helpings of humor in the face of serious situations and the very serious and evocative descriptions of the stark reality of the world that make it all too easy to conjure up images of the destruction and death that have become familiar to our main characters. It is, in my opinion, an original idea well-executed.

Please let me know what you think of the reviews; I plan to submit them for posting on the MITSFS website in the near future.

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