Review of The Orion Property by Kate Saundby

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   Was it coincidence? Or karma?

   I'd just finished reading a book by David Suzuki. This famous geneticist and media figure has written a book of warning, and yet of hope, focusing on the ways humanity is currently destroying itself. Two of the chapters in this wide-ranging work assessed the likely impacts of genetic engineering, which after all is Suzuki's specialty. His conclusion: it is as dangerous as all-out nuclear war.

   And then I received a science fiction book for review: Kate Saundby's 'The Orion Property'. This is the seventh volume of her 'Nublis Chronicles'.

   Orion, the hero of this story, is a genetically engineered creation. He is a cloned and mechanically improved version of a scientist who had sought immortality.

   Suzuki shows that meddling with the genes of plants and animals is fraught with deadly danger. Saundby explores dangers of a different kind. Her story is centered on the social and personal consequences of attempts to improve humanity by these means, the dangers facing us if genetic engineering should prove to be as successful as its proponents hope.

   Not that 'The Orion Property' is heavy reading, far from it. It is thankfully free of preaching and long tracts of pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo. Instead, it is a lighthearted romp through a world which is an intriguing mix of medieval social organization, 19th Century customs, futuristic science and magic.

   We follow the attractive and lovable hero through misfortune and escape, and in the process, learn of some of the bad things about having been created instead of born. We learn about the effects of greed, that universal poison, and how it inevitably transforms what should be a boon into a terrible problem.

   This was the first book in the 'Nublis Chronicles' that I have read. No doubt fans of the series will be familiar with several of the characters, but I found my introduction into the middle of a sequence of books to be painless. Occasionally the author was forced to insert a paragraph or two that was obviously the summary of a previous book, and this interfered with my immersion in the story, but apart from this, the writing is excellent. Orion and several other characters will be loved by all, the villains are delightfully mean and ruthless. This is an enjoyable tale. And if it is the sugar coating around a serious message, well, all the better. No-one has yet been damaged from being confronted by questions of ethics, only from failing to think about them.

 

   One of Kate's other books, The Artemesian Mandate, is a recipient of the LiFE Award.


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