From an award-winning writer and local biomedical researcher comes CRISPR Evolution, a science fiction thriller about a man who braves the ruins of our genetic past—and awakens humanity’s sleeping destiny.
Charis Jones (aka Charis Himeda, PhD) is a research professor at the University of Nevada, Reno and co-founder of RENOGENYX, a company dedicated to developing treatments for Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Himeda won the FSHD Society’s inaugural Young Investigator award, and has been interviewed by The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and The Boston Business Journal for engineering FSHD therapeutics using CRISPR gene modifying technology.
At night, Dr. Himeda doffs her lab gloves to pen speculative fiction about renegade scientists who do things she would never dream of doing. She is a three-time winner in the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association contest; a winner in the Sandy, the Zebulon, and the Colorado Gold contests; a semifinalist in the Chanticleer International Book Awards; a finalist in the Page Turner Awards; and a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of literary magazines and in The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021.
The plot: brilliant geneticist Howard Wake has one life-defining dream: to advance human evolution, starting with his own kids. Under the radar of agencies that have outlawed all but the tamest science, he builds a tool designed to probe the darkest crypts in the human genome for buried treasure. But rousing ancient DNA from its age-old slumber is a risky undertaking.
To create his children safely, Howard needs to enlist Jacqueline Witt, who has engineered a secret of her own. Before he can convince his friend and colleague to help him, Howard is forced to disappear into the science underground. Deciding that it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, he takes everything he needs with him.
Eight years later, Howard’s kids are helping him run a garage lab in Massachusetts—but federal agents are only a step behind, the twins’ sleeping DNA is beginning to stir, and Jacqueline has tracked down the man who stole what she values most … and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get it back.
CRISPR Evolution, available on Amazon, was a first-place winner in the PNWA literary contest, a semifinalist in the Chanticleer International Book Awards, and a finalist in the Page Turner Awards. Fans of Orson Scott Card, Ursula Le Guin, and Octavia Butler will love this tale of genetic roguery in a world where free inquiry has become a rare and dangerous commodity.
“(CRISPR Evolution) is a work of genius. An exploration of the very essence of what it is to be human … and of destiny itself.” — Frederick R. Friedel, film director, producer, and screenwriter
An excerpt from CRISPR Evolution:
He leaned back and gazed into space, raking his hands through his greying hair. Jacqueline waited for him to continue, fascinated in spite of herself. This was the unspoken conversation underlying their talk in the Red Eye Café all those years ago—the kind of discussion she’d always wanted to have with him.
“So you found a way to speed up evolution?” she prompted him. “In the human species?”
“Not the species,” he said, turning his intense gaze on her. “The organism. Evolution within a single human being, Jacqueline.”
He nodded, his eyes alight. “Instead of using CRISPR to play God—a dull and predictable God constrained by the human imagination—I set the machine free to be God.”
“Sounds like AI,” she scoffed. “What kind of tinkering could possibly give a molecular machine a mind of its own?”
“Not a mind,” he said impatiently. “Does evolution have a mind of its own? I had to find a way to put the CRISPR machine under the same selective pressure as any organism. And what organism is already adapted to survive inside a host?”
“Quite a few, actually,” she said. “But I suppose you’re thinking of a virus. Are you telling me you turned the CRISPR machine into a virus?”
“A virus whose survival depends on giving its host new capabilities,” he said triumphantly.
“But the evo part—how could you design a CRISPR virus to speed up evolution of its human host?”
Howard grinned at her. “You’d know better than I would, Dr. Witt. Where do the building blocks of evolution come from?”
“From our genes, of course.”
“And how many latent evolutionary pathways are lying dormant in the DNA between our genes? Old traits left over from our hairy and scaly ancestors, or stolen from other organisms, or left by invaders. How much of our DNA comes from invading viruses?”
“Almost half of it,” she replied quietly.
Howard nodded, eyes gleaming. “Most people don’t know what genetic mutts we really are. We have more virus than primate in us—only most of it is sleeping.”