Daniels’ blend of sci-fi and religious allegory explores the development of an entirely new, undoubtedly superior species of human.
Mary and Joe Christianson believe Dr. Benjamin Gabriel has finally answered their prayers for a baby. Dr. Gabriel, a friend and fertility specialist in Bethlehem, Pa., is supremely confident about his new procedure. He even asks the Christiansons to list their preferred physical traits for a child. Although they know that the doctor’s treatments are considered classified by the government, Mary and Joe are thrilled when the procedure helps them finally have a healthy baby boy, whom they name Justice. When Justice begins speaking and walking at only 5 months old, they enroll him in the school affiliated with Dr. Gabriel’s clinic to determine whether he’s gifted. He is, but so are the majority of his schoolmates. Mary and Joe eventually start asking questions and learn that Dr. Gabriel’s procedures are not merely successful—he’s actually created an improved species of human called Homo selectus. As the result of a genetically enhanced embryo, Justice is a member of the new species. The “children” of Dr. Gabriel’s program, who develop at an alarming rate, are fully mature by age 10. They are assigned work in highly specialized jobs at top companies and the government. Looming over them, however, is the threat that nefarious parties will exploit their abilities. Daniels skillfully develops the sense of threat from both outside groups and the top officials within Dr. Gabriel’s program. The pace, which tends to languish when discussing Mary and Joe, accelerates when following the children’s physical development, personal relationships and outsized intelligence. The novel focuses on a child named Jackson, who becomes a secret agent in Syria. Although his adventures seem divergent at first, they quickly cultivate suspense. Daniels’ prose can be awkward or too elaborate. For example, in describing Mary’s eyes Daniels writes, “those who were captured by those mesmerizing, cobalt spheres often lost track of time itself, having to be shaken to consciousness by Mary’s next unintended victim.” But these bumps will likely be overlooked in favor of the animated plot and thoughtful questions posed about genetic manipulation.
After an unhurried start, this debut switches gears into an inventive, intriguing novel.