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Book Review

Book Cover

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful


Author: Arwwn Elys Dayton
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 832240 3
Publication Date: 07 February 2019

Genetic modification is the process of altering a plant or animal by modifying genes, usually by transferring them from a host to a recipient. Changing an inherited characteristic has been a part of human plant husbandry for our whole history, but now we are contemplating doing it to ourselves…

Stronger, Faster and more Beautiful (2019. 368 pages) is a science fiction novel by Arwen Elys Dayton, an American novelist of young adult fiction, best known for her 2012 novel, Resurrection.

The book consists of six interlinked short stories which takes the reader from the near tomorrow to a far distant future and examines how we, as a species, will adapt to adaptation

All the protagonists in the stories have tended to be in their mid-teen, but while this may point to the book being aimed at a young adult market, the science fiction and themes explored will be easily enjoyed by an adult reader.

The book spends little time in explaining the actual science behind the various modifications, rather it examines the impact, both social and personal on the main characters. Although the book spans a lengthy, but indeterminate period there are several social trends which hold the stories together. These include a charismatic preacher who believes that any modification is an affront to God's will.

When something happens in his own family, he takes a complete about face on his beliefs. He starts an evangelical crusade to persuade Americans that modification is one of God's gifts. This creates a schism not just between religion and science, but also between America and the rest of the world.

The first story is not so far from what we can do today. Julia and Evan are identical twins, which, unfortunately means they share the same genetic defect. However, the effects are not identical, so when Julia falls into a vegetative state her organs are harvested for Evan.

The second story is about prejudice and revenge, while the third looks at how religious fervour can twist belief systems, it is also the seed which informs all the latter stories. As humans diverge, they start to become more alien to their basic human counterparts, able to survive in the oceans and across the asteroid belt, but power does not always come with augmentation. While the stories imply that the wealthy gather to themselves all the benefits, the less fortunate citizens are exploited.

All the stories can be read on their own, but the growing threads which join them all together are a major part of the attraction.

In the end, I think that the author is ambivalent about the benefits which humans will gain from such advances in genetic technology. She doesn’t negate the idea but is well aware that the outcome will be determined by greedy and imperfect humans.


Charles Packer

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