I had the opportunity to sit down with Peter James a couple of weeks ago, to interview him for the Irish Examiner. I asked him if the novel is intended as a kind of morality play, a warning against the potentially hellish consequences of humans playing God. He had this to say:
“It’s not so much a warning book, no,” he says. “I think what I wanted to say in this book is that this is the future that we are staring at right now, like it or not. I mean, you and I could set up a genetics laboratory here,” he gestures around the Gresham’s lobby.For the rest, clickety-click here …
“You don’t need an awful lot of space, all you need is a telomerase machine, some pipettes, a computer, some Petri dishes, and not that much else. So, really, it’s not going to be controllable. Right now, you can go to a laboratory in Los Angeles and chose your baby’s hair colour, skin tone, eye colour. And there are disease genes you can have eradicated, cystic fibrosis is pretty close to being knocked out of the genome as we speak. When I started writing this book, it was sci-fi, no doubt about it. Right now, it’s all possible.
“We’ve got to the point now where science is out of control,” he says. “We’ve lost the plot of trying to keep our understanding of really where we are with it. There’s a fascinating statistic I once heard, which is that Aristotle was the last human being whose generation would have been capable of reading everything that had been written in their lifetimes. Copernicus, in 1490, his generation would have been the last capable of reading everything produced in their own language during their lifetimes. These days, it’s impossible for one person to know everything that’s going on.”