Warning: this review contains spoilers
I am doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year and acquired this book for research purposes, after looking up “artificial perfect humans” and “relatable characters”. I’ve heard of the author before but never read his books.
Creepy kids? Check. Mad scientist? Check. Religious fanatics? Check. This has all the makings of a perfect thriller – great pick for Halloween! However, the sci-fi element cannot be overlooked. Admittedly, it can be said to be the “soft” kind of sci-fi, but you know me – I don’t like to measure the extent to which a book can be classified into a particular genre.
The main characters are John and Naomi Klaesson, a couple who have recently lost a child to a rare genetic disorder. The book starts with them being on a cruise ship which serves as a lab and a clinic. They paid a very large amount of money to Dr Leo Dettore, a scientist who apparently can help them and ensure that their next child would never have to suffer from a disease like that. However, they start getting suspicious when they see a list of possible attibutes for the child – eye colour, height, abilities… they are offered an opportunity to literally bake themselves a perfect bun in the oven. Nevertheless, they go ahead. Things go wrong when they get off the ship and come back to the States. Unfortunately, they keep getting worse. Not only Naomi’s pregnancy isn’t going anything like they were told – they now also have a group of religious extremists who kill off every single family who were Dr Dettore’s patients. When Naomi finally gives birth, the Klaessons’ world is turned upside down.
What would you do if you had the opportunity to literally make a perfect child? What if you could guarantee him intelligence, strength, perfect sports scores, perfect looks? What about personal qualities? If you could make sure that your child is kindest, most compassionate and yet most resourceful person on the planet? How far are you willing to go?
The book explores the issues outlined above in the context of genetic engineering and how each generation differs from the previous one.
What I loved about this book is that James illustrates the issues from multiple points of view. Dettore’s view, and his main goal, is that the next generation must be the kind of people who would never even consider the idea of a nuclear weapon, who would be appalled by a mere mention of violence. However, the way he sees it is that the world is not ready, right now, for what he is working towards. SPOILER The genius children he’s been creating are the new race, the new Generation, who possess superior intelligence, and who shall, in the future, do their best to save the world from “the mess it’s been in for the last few thousands of years”. END SPOILER.
The other perspective is that of John and Naomi’s. One of the great things is that they are very relatable – they are ordinary people who just want what’s best for their kid whom they love unconditionally, no matter what. They don’t care about Dettore’s intentions and they hate him for SPOILER kidnapping their kids in order to develop his own agenda. END SPOILER. Of course, they care about the environment and everything that is happening around the world – they are both smart and good people – but like any good parents, they put their children first. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but this is what made me tear up when I read the last page.
Overall, I got a lot more out of this book than I expected – I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it as much since I was merely reading it for research purposes, but I actually quite liked it – it was mostly plot-driven and I found it hard to put the book down at times. Some parts were rather scary – especially those with the creepy kids (why do horror films always feature them? They are terrifying!). I am happy to give “Perfect People” a score of 7.5/10!
Naomi – she’s a great mother and I really like how James changed the narrative voice to suit her character when the chapters were extracts from her diary.
Most relatable character:
Both John and Naomi – they are just doing their best as parents
SPOILER: Luke and Phoebe – the twins that were the result of John and Naomi’s experiment. They are terrifying at times, and one of the reasons was their incredibly close and fascinating relationship – they even developed their own language! END SPOILER
“Throughout history, people who have tried to challenge established thinking have been persecuted. Not everyone had been right, but if nobody had tried – well – the human race wouldn’t have progressed very face. We might not even have survived this long. We’d certainly be living in some kind of dark age right now”.
John Klaesson – Alexander Skarsgård (because John is Swedish)
Naomi Klaesson – Katie McGrath or Gemma Arterton
Dr Leo Dettore – Yancey Arias
You might like “Perfect People” if you liked:
– “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown;
– “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley;
– “Heart of a Dog” by Mikhail Bulgakov
(The photo is mine)