Peter James may be known for his Roy Grace series of detective novels, but he also penned the sci-fi/psychological thriller Perfect People about a couple who visit a geneticist to conceive a "designer" baby when their first-born son succumbs to a hereditary condition.
Following the death of their first-born child Halley to a rare genetic condition, John and Naomi Klaesson visit controversial geneticist Leo Dettore in the hope of conceiving another child who is free from that particular disorder. Everything about Dettore is mysterious, from the way he operates on board a ship in international waters to the fact that the other patients of his floating clinic are hardly seen. Not to mention the fact that he has impregnated Naomi with twins (a boy and a girl) when the Klaessons only wanted another son. Soon after, Dettore is supposedly killed by an extremist Christian sect that is against genetic engineering, and it is also where the Klaessons' nightmare begins, forcing them to shift from the bright lights of Los Angeles to the quaint English countryside.
Perfect People: Peter James's new thriller warning about the pitfalls of genetic engineering
A few months later, twins Luke and Phoebe are born, but there is something different about them, like they are from another planet altogether. They develop faster than their peers and display certain behavioural traits common in many other sets of twins conceived at Dettore's clinic. Dettore's patients are also hunted down one by one by the same sect that claimed responsibility for his death, and the Klaessons are no exception. The Klaesson twins barely escape the same fate but are taken into custody by a mysterious couple, much to their parents' dismay. They later find their children and many others like them on a secret island facility run by Dettore (who survived the attempt on his life) himself. When Luke and Phoebe are allowed to return home again, they are simply not what they seem to be.
James's words sound kind of prophetic in a sense that when humans interfere with nature the results can be disastrous. With "designer" babies becoming a possible reality in the future, Perfect People serves as a warning about what might possibly happen when people start choosing how they want their child to turn out, from hair and eye colours to intelligence levels to agility to genetic make-up. The possibility of eugenics becoming the norm is all too real and would have serious implications on society.
Having said that, Perfect People provides a strong argument against genetic engineering, and we may be better off leaving things to chance just as they are. After all, if the bridge is not broken, why fix it? We may only make things worse even though we wanted to make it better.