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Today we have a Q&A with J.D. Lasica, author of the new genetic science thriller Biohack. He is making the ebook edition available for free on Amazon for this week only. He’s doing so in the hope of receiving additional short, honest book reviews so don't hesitate, click HERE and grab the book, read, and write what you think!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m originally from New Jersey but have lived in Northern California for the past 25 years. I lead a double life as an author of high-tech thrillers and as CEO of a cruise vacation tech startup. And I've given talks at the United Nations, Harvard, Stanford and on four continents.
Why did you decide to write a near-future thriller?
Thrillers have always been my first love, and I wanted to tackle a big subject. Michael Crichton was a major influence, and I tried to follow his lead in weaving in some cutting-edge science without slowing down the action. There’s a Tom Clancy international vibe with scenes set in New York, L.A., Miami, Dallas, Rome, France, Belarus, and more. And you’ll find touches of a technothriller, crime thriller, science fiction, medical thriller, and even legal thriller weaved in.
What is your book about?
Biohack is a story about the dawning era of reproductive technologies. It’s Brave New World in reverse – instead of the government deciding your genetic destiny, the free market prevails.
On one level, Biohack is a full-on pulse-pounding thriller with a hero who’s up against a villainous biotech company CEO who’s running a next-generation fertility clinic with the goal of ushering in the era of the New Enhanced Family.
Employees are told sex is for fun, not for making babies. It’s set in the mid-2020s when genetic science has advanced to the point where a lab can not only screen for genetic diseases but add “positive influences” and “genetic enrichment” to a pre-embryo. It gets darker than that: The bad guys begin to steal the DNA of Hollywood celebrities, and they start planning a grave team operation to steal the genetic remains of the most famous legends in history.
But It’s also a very human story with a protagonist who searches for her birth mother, a mom who lost her toddler in a swimming pool accident, and a 10-year-old girl who’s caught up in all this.
It really is a rollercoaster of a science thriller, and I’m happy to see the reception it’s getting – more than 60 five-star reviews on Amazon in two months.
Did that require a lot of research?
I spent three months doing research, reading up on the latest advances in CRISPR and other forms of gene editing, and came away thinking, wow, this is amazing stuff and society isn’t ready for what’s just around the corner.
I wanted to keep it in the realm of near-future science rather than science fiction. I had the feeling that the novel would be more disturbing if it hewed as much as possible to what labs are able to do today or by 2025, and then let readers wrestle with the morality of it all.
What was the most fun part of writing the book?
I loved researching the action scenes that amount to cinematic set-pieces. The opening scene takes place along the Roman Street of the Dead in the catacombs beneath the Vatican. Bringing that to life was just awesome.
What was the most challenging part?
The world building was hard to pull off. I wanted a solid layer of verisimilitude to undergird the story so I relied on a number of experts to get the science right.
For example, I created this elaborate campus where clients of the biotech company, Birthrights Unlimited, are able to “trick out” their test tube baby with all the latest enhancements, ranging from eye color, hair color and skin color to height and optimal body mass index or BMI.
What they can’t do by the mid-2020s is to greatly increase intelligence or life expectancy. So a lot of the early enhancements are superficial, like the identical twin boys who look exactly alike, except one has blue eyes and one has green eyes. Do I think that can or will happen? As the uncle of identical twin boys, yes, absolutely.
The second challenge was appealing to the heart as well as the head. So I spent a lot of time creating strong emotional hooks to make sure readers would care deeply about the main characters.
What would you give for a second chance? Valerie Ramirez, a special ed teacher haunted by her toddler’s drowning accident, faces a fateful decision when she’s admitted into a secretive program run by a biotech company.
Kaden Baker, an elite hacker who dabbles in covert ops, finds her life turned upside down when she discovers her parents were imposters. Where does she come from? Who’s been financing her high-stakes secret missions?
The answers lead back to the same mysterious biotech firm. As Kaden and Valerie become allies, they make one startling discovery after another about the company’s dark intentions. But each step closer to the truth puts their lives at greater risk.
The stakes couldn’t be higher—for Kaden’s freedom, for Valerie’s fate, and for the future direction of humanity itself.
You’ve done some inventive things offering readers a freebie to go along with the book.
Right. I created a free 36-page full-color handout called The Hacked Celebrity Files that readers can download for free if they join my Readers Circle. It lays out a dozen grave team targets of famous legends, as well as detailing some of the genetic enhancement techniques on the horizon.
I also created a tripping futuristic fertility clinic website that gives readers a peek at where reproductive technologies may be taking us very soon. Check it out at BirthrightsUnlimited.com.
I keep coming back to one of the main conceits of the book, that one can extract DNA from bodies that have died decades or even centuries ago. Is that really possible?
Absolutely. DNA doesn’t care if you’re dead or alive. All that matters is that the DNA needs to be fairly intact. Look, they’re working on bringing back the woolly mammoth based on skeletal remains that’s 4,000 to 10,000 years old.
Think about what this could soon mean for all of us: A drop of blood, a fleck of skin, a trace of saliva left on the back of a stamp—any reasonably intact genetic material is sufficient for a capable laboratory to stitch together a person’s complete genome. For whatever purposes they choose.
Do you think people will want to take advantage of this new reproductive tech?
Certainly, selecting the gender of your child will be popular. Breast cancer survivors who want daughters without the BRCA mutation. Parents who are self-conscious about everything from big ears to red hair and don’t want to pass those traits on to their child. And even parents who want to clone a child that they’ve lost. It’s certainly within the realm of what science can do today.
You know, IVF and test-tube babies were once seen as morally repugnant in some quarters, and now we take that for granted. If left purely to market forces, I think we’d see the same thing with reproductive tech.
James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA double helix, said,
“If scientists find ways to greatly improve human capabilities, there will be no stopping the public from happily seizing them.” And I think that’s true.
So the book’s message has a warning for us?
I think historians will look back at 2012, when CRISPR was discovered as a gene editing tool, as the beginning of the Age of Genetics.
And I’ll definitely be opting for cremation.
I’m working on Book 2 of the Gender Wars series.
Where can readers connect with you?
I’m all over social media and the Web: