Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lisa Black

Lisa Black’s fourth book Defensive Wounds was released by Harper Collins last month. Forensic scientist Theresa MacLean battles a serial killer operating at an attorney’s convention. Black is a full time latent print examiner and CSI for a police department in Florida.

Some time ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Right now I’m reading Next by Michael Crichton, published in 2006. I have my doubts about its parentage, having read Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain and noticing a great difference in styles, but even Crichton’s own website admits it’s a very atypical novel for him, written in a fury after attending a conference on genetics and law. It’s about genetic testing, therapy and experimentation and beyond that becomes very difficult to describe. It’s a frenetic book; there are about twenty five different characters, none of whom are developed in any particular way and almost none of whom are particularly likeable. I don’t say that as a criticism as, three-quarters of the way through the book, I’ve decided that it may be intentional. I think he had so much scientific information to depart that he simply didn’t bother going into great detail about the human characters—all we need to know is that they’re varied, average, inconsistent and consequently problems occur just as they would among real human beings. Meanwhile the scientific information is overwhelming—what genes can do, what has been done, what has been claimed to have been done and then later turned out to be bunk. And on and on and on. For a layman it is almost impossible to distinguish what is false and claimed to be true versus what is actually true and claimed to be false in order to cover up a researcher’s mistake or a company’s lucrative new development. Although after years and years of being pitched to by the pharmaceutical companies, it will not come as a surprise that scientific research is nowhere near as objective a field as it should be.

The book raises many scientific and philosophical points, especially with the one character who seems most realistic—a genetic scientist/lobbyist with great skill at couching the more controversial possibilities of genetic engineering in terms of ‘well, God wouldn’t have given us brains if he didn’t intend for us to use them.’ A good point, but in providing a laundry list of genetic mishaps I think Crichton is making the case that human error, inattention, carelessness, ambition, avarice and ignorance can and will create one genetic disaster after another. But for the most part he delves much more into the potential legal questions than the moral ones—and if you think humans are sue-happy now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. What I bring away from the book is this: When it comes to genetics, nothing is as simple as it sounds. Nothing.
Visit Lisa Black's website.

My Book, The Movie: Defensive Wounds.

The Page 69 Test: Defensive Wounds.

--Marshal Zeringue