*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Gengineers extraordinaire! The intrepid duo of Joy (Prof. Williams) and George (Prof. Martinez) tackle challenges ranging from invasive pyromaniac knapweed to pretty poisonous pet Puppysaurs. A lighthearted romp through the future of genetic engineering.
These stories are set in a future roughly 60 years from now (approximately 2080). All of the stories feature organisms with unusual genetics. These organisms were either created intentionally for various reasons (“Sofia’s Seed Weevils”, “The Great Knapweed Round-up”, “Grandma’s Kittens”, and “Please Don’t Feed the Wildlife”) or were discovered in the wild (“Terroctopus Paxarbolis”, “The Squirrels of Snohomish County”, and “Gigantanthropus Canadensis”).
In each story, George and Joy face a genetic or environmental challenge. The challenge may be invasive plants (“Sofia’s Seed Weevils” and “The Great Knapweed Round-up”), identification or protection of rare or challenged species (“Terroctopus Paxarbolis”, “The Squirrels of Snohomish County”, and “Gigantanthropus Canadensis”), or dealing with the consequence of poorly managed genetic constructs which have escaped into the wilderness (“Grandma’s Kittens”, and “Please Don’t Feed the Wildlife”).
In each story, Joy and George are successful in resolving the issues, typically through some combination of cleverness, scientific acumen, and more than their fair share of good luck.
The stories are lighthearted and optimistic, George and Joy (and their students) have a lot of fun along the way, but nonetheless each story is grounded in real and factual challenges facing the wilderness of the future.
For the reader interested in the underlying scientific details, an Appendix is provided which clarifies the science versus the fiction in each story.
The concept for this book is incredibly clever and entertaining!
It is a series of short stories, featuring the same small group of scientists and researchers – particularly Joy and George – as they deal with different issues relating to gene manipulation and genetic modification in animal and plant-life. It sounds technical and dry when put like that, but what you actually get is the congenial banter of any long-term work colleagues – recognisable from any office environment – mixed with witty little stories about teleporting squirrels, pyromaniac plants and trained, working cougar cross-breeds.
Jack Kuhn has managed to blend the sci-fi perfectly with the office anecdotes to turn the fantastic into something mundane and yet still infinitely interesting. Especially when you consider that maybe some of these fictional ideas are not really that far from modern scientific reach!
Honestly, this whole book is an absolute delight, like a John Wyndham classic but with humour and warmth genetically spliced in with the warnings about invasive plant species and not feeding the puppysaurs.
Then, as an extra, added bonus, there is a whole section at the end of the book where the author painstakingly takes you through the real science and where it converges/diverges from his science fiction. I was completely transfixed, and I’ve always been one for humanities rather than STEM generally. Kuhn just makes the topic seem so accessible!
So, if you are looking for short science fiction stories with a grounding in realistic characters, settings and science, that also manage to be light-hearted entertainment, this is the one. And even better… it is only Volume 1!
“Accessories?” Joy questioned. “You mean like Dino-Barbie or something?”– Jack Kuhn, Tomorrow’s Wilderness Volume 1: Tree-Octopuses, Squirrels and Puppysaurs
“Yes, pretty much,” George agreed cheerfully. “They have this new construct under development, which is basically a miniature dinosaur. It is built on an ornithopod base, likely just taken from their regular theme-park ornithopod line. However, they’ve added a marketing plan to attract the kids by making these things incredibly cute and in these just astonishing colour schemes. They’ve also added some behavioural modifications to attract parents, trying to imitate the protectiveness and affection of a good guard dog. They are naming the things ‘Puppysaurs’.”
You can follow Jack Kuhn on Goodreads here.
Tomorrow’s Wilderness Volume 1: Tree-Octopuses, Squirrels and Puppsaurs is available on Amazon right now!