Homo Transformans: The Origin and Nature of the Species
In a post-apocalyptic world, anything can happen. In the world of Homo Transformans, some humans, having been exposed to gamma radiation from a massive supernova, began to mutate, having offspring who eventually developed the ability to transform into different animals. This ability was so novel, those who possessed it were recognized as belonging to a new species, called Homo Transformans. Those who craved power coveted this ability; two warring factions desired to possess it for their own use, resorting to bioengineering, forced breeding programs, even kidnapping and enslavement of any H. transformans they could find. A powerful family of H. transformans, the House of H’Aleth, established its own community where H. transformans (and friendly H. sapiens) could live together in harmony, without persecution. However, their power-hungry antagonists, constantly threatening to overwhelm their lands and enslave their people, forced them to live in constant vigilance as they tried to protect and secure their way of life. After one devastating attack that destroys most of the H’Aleth community, only one young girl is left to learn all she needs to know to survive and to fulfill her mission to restore her House.
The field of genetics is fascinating; our scientific knowledge is constantly progressing as we uncover more and more of the mysteries of our genetic code. Amazing scientific breakthroughs are leading to specific, targeted interventions for genetic diseases. The more we discover about our DNA, the more interesting it becomes. Not merely the code itself, but all sorts of processes that happen in our genome determine how we look, act, and respond to our environment. A basic understanding of how our genetics work is essential for many fields of scientific endeavour, or even just to understand the world around us.
This book covers such genetics basics as chromosomes, Mendelian inheritance, sex-linked traits, dominance, age-related cell death, stem cells, transposable genetic elements, and much, much more. Although none of the topics are covered in any depth, there is huge breadth here, and wonderful exposure to the field, even just in the introduction to the vocabulary. Readers who are interested in pursuing any topics further are directed to a beautifully extensive bibliography, as well as detailed chapter notes that expound on the current research or further explain or expand the chapter topics. The genetics are explained clearly and simply, easy even for those absolutely new to the field. The genius of the book is the interweaving of the genetics with the engaging story. There is just the right amount of plot in each chapter to move the story forward, and each plot point is carefully constructed to illustrate the genetics topic. At first as you are reading, you may feel a little disconcerted by the switches from story to explication, but the constant breaking from one to the other actually, and brilliantly, keeps you engaged in both the story and the science. If you want to learn the genetics, the plot gives you some nice illustrations about how that science may be used; if you care only for the story, you won’t mind picking up a lot of genetics along the way.
Although the writing style is much better suited for the genetics explanations than for the fantasy – it is always expository; even the descriptions are more like precisely factual scientific observations than immersive creative experiences – it is easy to read and holds your attention – a little stiff perhaps, but not dry and certainly not boring. This book is an interesting juxtaposition of two extremely different genres – fantasy novel and genetics textbook. The author’s stated purpose is to teach a broad overview of genetics hidden in the guise of an engaging story, and she achieves her purpose surprisingly well. The key is to recognize the intended audience. If one comes to this book without much background in either genetics or fantasy novels, it will probably be a bit confusing – the genetics are basic and the fantasy unsophisticated. The illustrations will also, to most adult readers, seem quite comic. However, it will be a perfectly delightful book for older tweens just beginning to explore fantasy novels, and high school students will enjoy learning genetics in such a painless, pleasant form. That is not to say adults would not enjoy it, too; it really is engaging for any age, but a middle- to high-school audience would probably appreciate it best.
|Mary Elizabeth Ames
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|Science Fiction & Fantasy