Change Agent by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this for review from NetGalley.
In 2045 the world has shifted to an economy based on synthetic biology rather than electronics, and the United States is now a third world backwater because of its stubborn clinging to its past and refusal to recognize and adapt to a changing reality.
Yep, that math checks out.
Genetic modifications are all the rage, but while it’s OK to prevent a disease in an embryo it’s illegal to tinker with the DNA to turn your kid into a hybrid of Stephen Hawking and Tom Brady. Kenneth Durand is a researcher for Interpol in Singapore who tracks down illegal labs. Durand and his group receive intelligence that a powerful crime syndicate run by a man named Marcus Wyckes is the main player for all genetic crime, but before Durand can act on the information he is injected with something while in a crowd. He wakes up from a coma weeks later, but now he has an entirely different face and body, and even his DNA has been altered to change him into a Marcus Wyckes doppelganger. Durand manages to escape, but now he’s the most wanted man in the world. If that’s not bad enough he also has the crime syndicate after him including a terrifying hit man who can kill with a touch.
My first thought on hearing the premise for this is that it sounded like the Nicolas Cage movie Face-Off, and there’s certainly a little of that film’s DNA present here. (See what I did there?) However, Daniel Suarez is a writer capable of looking at the current state of technology and coming up with concepts for what happens next that seem all too plausible. He thinks big, and here he’s done an impressive job of building a world that certainly seems like it could be where we’re heading. While Suarez is a champion of science and technology he also sees some of the often horrifying implications of how unregulated processes and unrestrained greed could turn new developments against humanity.
While he’s created a detailed and intriguing society for Durand to be hunted through the downside is that main story really isn’t much more than your average thriller plot about an innocent man on the run. There’s even the standard issue wife and child in order to provide Durand with extra motivation and make him seem more sympathetic. I lost track of the number of times that Durand broods about trying to get back to his wife and baby girl. (And if you want another Nic Cage reference pretend that you can hear me doing my best imitation of him in Con Air saying, “My baby girl.”)
Like Suarez’s other work the characters are one-note stereotypes for the most part, and he can be can be repetitive as well as downright comic booky. During one critical confrontation Durand says some variation on “You’ll never get away with this!” at least three times. I was more interested in this world where furniture, car frames, and knife blades are grown than I was in the fate of Durand who was just another bland lead character to me.
Still, a Suarez thriller always gives me new ideas to think about as well as several terrible things to keep me up nights, and that’s why I continue to look forward to reading whatever he comes up with.
View all my reviews