If you thought Jurassic Park was an unlikely fiction, think again. Right now, scientists at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere are close to succeeding in their attempt to restore and revive extinct species (including the Woolly Mammoth)…and that is just the beginning. Genomic research is cutting edge science, and restoration of extinct species (“de-extinction”) has passionate defenders. But what will happen if such experimentation goes unregulated? Will researchers be satisfied merely with de-extinction?
Or may some profiteers go on to combine multiple genomes to produce "designer species”? And then what?
Joyce Keller Walsh’s newest book, Feathered Serpents, is both a compelling mystery and a cautionary tale. The story revolves arounddetective Sebastian Calderón, who has moved from Arizona to Cape Cod to become Chief of Police in a town where his daughter is attending art school. It is winter and the usual activities have slowed down, leaving him bored and unchallenged. But his routine is soon shaken when an opera diva’s ‘pet’ anaconda attacks her and Calderón encounters multiple murders in a realm of transgenic-species experimentation, with mystical links to his ancient Toltec past.
The plot about rogue science is not implausible. “A real ‘Pleistocene Park’ already exists in northern Siberia,” Walsh says, “and although it’s not intended to duplicate ‘Jurassic Park’, the reality is that we seem to be traveling down that worrisome path—and anyone who’s seen those movies knows how it turns out.” Perhaps, before going further, this is the time to ask, ‘Are there any ethical limits to bioengineering?’
The author of six previous books—one of which, Strummin’ the Banjo Moon, was nominated for a National Book Award—Walsh insists that despite a message in the story, her main interest is to entertain. In accepting the manuscript for publication, her publisher wrote that “the characters jump right off the page,” and the editor called it “a ripping good tale!” That, Joyce feels, is always hergoal. But if she also enlightens readers about the potential hazards of unfettered genomic research, all the better.
Feathered Serpents is published by Solstice Publishing and may be ordered at www.amazon.com.