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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
In an early 2019 interview/article that appeared in The Economist, the interviewee stated, “…if we thought the debates over abortion and genetically modified crops were contentious, wait until the coming debate over genetically modified people arrives.” David Witt makes this very debate, and several other associated issues surrounding genetic engineering, the basis of his plot in Designer Babies…one of the most enthralling and unique reads I’ve enjoyed in a while. The plot and the intriguing combination of characters Witt created to deliver its concepts and themes captivate readers from the word “go.”
You have Bree, a young woman desperate to survive cancer; Zadie, who’s tried every which way to conceive; and Gwen, a pop star with Huntington’s disease who fears she will pass on her illness to future children. The brilliant, but mysteriously unemotional Dr. Cielo Chavez can help each of them fulfill their needs but she demands a high price for her help. She does indeed deliver on her promises, but what all three women encounter along the way is frightening, bringing each to the brink of death, not at the hands of the doctor but from enemies they never knew they had.
While the plot and characters are thoroughly absorbing, it’s the thoughts and questions behind the ethics, morality, and implications of genetically engineering the unborn to make them healthier, more intelligent, more attractive, etc that readers will find themselves debating both during the reading and later. This is the kind of novel book club members would love to discuss…if such topics can be discussed rationally and without religious or inherent prejudices spoiling the conversation. Obviously, I was intrigued enough by what David Witt suggested in Designer Babies to research eugenics, both in history and in current medical developments and applications. This novel helps us see both sides of the arguments for tampering with human genetic codes. What do you think about this contentious subject? Read Designer Babies to help you decide…if a final decision is even possible.