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5/17/2008 9:51 PM
    Just how far corporations, institutes or even individuals should be allowed to go when it comes to holding patents?
    Where should the line be drawn when it comes to patents, copy writes, intellectual property?
    What if these patents and the like involve the very building blocks of all life as we know it, the very genome?
    While we’re at it, how far should various companies, corporations and even research institutes be allowed to go when it comes to mixing genomes.
    When does playing god go too far?
    These are just a few of the questions that are not only raised, but speculated upon and answered in Michael Crichton’s latest thriller, Next.
    The novel delves into the world of genetic engineering, transgenics, chimera’s patents on genes and everything that is involved.
    The human side, how people react and are affected by all these factors.
    I’ll come out and state it. Because of various genetic defects that are prevalent in my bloodline, I’ve always had a keen interest in biogenetics and the entire field. Not enough to go into it as a career, but still, more than a passing interest.
    This novel was right up my alley. It took me three days to read it, and it wasn’t a small book by any stretch of the imagination, it was a massive five hundred pages long.
    People who pick up the book and read it, I should warn you right now, without giving away any spoilers, that it can be quite confusing.
    There is a massive cast of characters. Each character has a role to play in the novel, and at first, all these different roles, stories if you will, don’t seem to be connected.
    Of course, as the novel progresses, all these stories begin to become intertwined, and even though it is very complex, it all begins to become clear to the reader what is going on.
    Sorry, one minor spoiler here – two of the characters in the book are not even human. Yes, I am breaking one of my self imposed cardinal rules, I am giving a spoiler out. Albeit not a huge spoiler, but a spoiler none the less.
    It is amazing how two characters that aren’t even human can have such an impact. And they are important to the novel, as they do touch on one of the hottest and most debated aspects of genetics… genetic engineering, or creating transgenics, or as they’re also know, Chimera’s.
    For the scientific novice, like yours truly, the science aspect of the novel is present, even the technical terms, but it has been written in such a way that it is easy to understand.
    And it was nice, in the case of chimera’s, to see something touched upon that I have in the past couple of years, seen a documentary on the television. The major case in this documentary was even mentioned in the novel.
    Very cool!
    Michael Crichton has gone out of his way to write a novel that is not only entertaining to read, but touches upon many of the different aspects of genetic engineering that I mentioned in the opening paragraphs of my review.
    The ethical, the legal, what is considered property and what isn’t, and just how far corporations could possibly go to obtain or protect what they consider belongs to them when it comes to the very foundation of our bodies, our genes.
    Hell, our very heritage.
    Even if you have only a passing interest in genetics, you should read this novel.
    Genetic engineering, transgenics, is one scientific field that allows us to take a hand at playing god. It is still, for all intent and purpose, in its infancy, but the potential for curing disease and prolonging human life is staggering.
    But it’s a double edged sword. The potential to use it for financial gain, or to create weapons that come from your worst nightmare, are equally, if not more staggering than you can imagine.
    5 out of 5
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