The Killer App by John Writher

(6.2/10)

Tagline: Would you die to become young again?

The Killer App is an interesting take on speculative fiction, set in an England not too far in the future most of the UK’s worst fears of today have become tomorrow’s reality. As the book starts we are told that 10,000 people have been killed in a fracking accident in Greater Manchester. Scotland and Northern Ireland have both left the United Kingdom and what is left of the UK is in a major financial crisis. So we find ourselves in a world with a lot of similarities but an even wider gap between the rich and poor.

The book is split between different characters perspectives giving an insight into their motivations. Robert Hand is the new Prime Minister who is looking for ways to fix the enormous deficit he has inherited from previous governments. Janet Icks is a scientist working in genetics and Bill Haugan in this story represents big industry, always looking for the next idea that will allow him to make money. From an informal meeting in Davos these three will come to create an alliance of Politics, Science and Industry to make Janet’s discovery (see below) a marketable product.

Janet has been working on a way to transport DNA from one person into another; the original DNA would be harvested from the client who would then be killed. Their DNA would then be injected into a new born baby, so that the clients DNA could transplant the baby’s DNA. In essence allowing someone to live their life again, being able to remember their previous experiences and expanding on them.

Bill is the main instigator of the project named “The Killer App” (no subtlety there), he sees this as something people will pay for in a world where everyone wants to look as young as possible and will spend a lot of money to do so. He is able to spin this to Robert as a way to guarantee a future voter stronghold as well as get rid of an aging population without losing their important skill sets.

The book’s three main characters do not really go into the ethics of their actions and whether this is right or wrong. The experiment to see if this transfer of DNA between humans seems to be the driving force and nothing is going to stop them even if they have to hide the project from the rest of the world. There are many levels to the manipulation as well as a lack of trust between these protagonists - they are all trying to keep control over where the experiment is heading, thinking they are smart enough to cover all bases.

The Killer App holds a mirror up to the ills of society, and gives an interesting “what if” to solving the world’s over population crisis. The characters themselves are quite unlikeable, but this doesn’t distract from the overall story. The book was written in three parts and part three changes the nature of the story quite drastically - I am still undecided on if this was a good thing, but maybe for the author it was the only logical conclusion. The characters have to face new truths as the story progresses, but will they actually learn anything? If you enjoy watching TV shows such as Utopia, or are happy to read about conspiracies to manipulate the masses, then this book will be of interest to you.

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