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40 pages 1 hour read

Blake Crouch

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Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2022

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Themes

Ethical Implications of Genetic Engineering

Content Warning: The source material includes discussion of suicide.

The novel lays out a framework for exploring the ethical limits of genetic engineering. The dilemma examined throughout the novel rests on the conclusion that unless some intervention is undertaken, humanity faces extinction as a result of climate change. The novel takes place somewhere in the “mid-twenty-first century” (196), and as the narrative unfolds, there are many indications that humans are already facing the beginning stages of climate-induced catastrophe. One of the more glaring examples of this is a flooded and abandoned Lower Manhattan, where the novel’s penultimate scene takes place.

Working from this conclusion, the novel poses two questions, which are exemplified by Logan’s and Kara’s missions. When faced with extinction, is it permissible to genetically alter human beings without their consent to save the species? Is the potential reward of saving the species worth the risk of killing a large percentage of it? After Logan and Kara discover their dead mother and view her recorded message, they position themselves on opposite poles. Kara adopts the position that it is ethically justifiable to kill a billion people if it means saving the remaining nine billion. While Logan does accept the potential of genetic modification to do good, he does not share this utilitarian perspective; he sees any genetic modification that ultimately kills people as antithetical to the cause.

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