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Genetopia [Paperback]

Keith Brooke
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Dec 2012
"Let Keith Brooke tell his tale in its cogent fullness. It is beyond any facile summary, a minor masterpiece that should usher Brooke at last into the recognized front ranks of SF writers." Locus

The village: a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else. Here, houses can be grown out of the dirt; livestock and the sub-human mutts can be changed into something else, something other; and fleshy, drastically mutated Oracles guide humankind on the delicate path of survival.

The wildlands: the land between human settlements where animals that are not animals live among plants that are not plants, and people who might not be people live in fear of human intervention. Out here organic AIs grow in the wildlands, either worshiped or feared; trees sing to each other; and tempting, dark fruit hang from the branches. Out here nothing can be trusted, nothing is necessarily as it seems, and no sane human would ever want to set foot.

Out here is Flint's missing sister.

Genetopia is the story of a young man in search of his possibly abducted sister in a far future where nano- and biotechnology have transformed and accelerated the evolution of humans and their strangely altered surroundings. In this world, you can never take anything - or anyone - at face value. Illness and contact with the unknown are always to be feared, as viruses re-engineer genes and germ cells, migrating traits from species to species through plague and fever. Humankind lives in isolated communities, connected by trade routes, and always fighting to keep the unclean at arm's length.

But if Flint is to find his sister he must brave the fevers, the legendary beasts, the unknown. He must enter strange communities and seek help in the most unlikely places. He must confront both his own dark past and the future of his kind.

He must go into the wildlands.

Flint's story is the story of the last true humans, and of the struggles between those who want to defend their heritage and those who choose to embrace the new. But Flint doesn't see it like that: he just wants to find his sister.


"I am so here! Genetopia is a meditation on identity - what it means to be human and what it means to be you - and the necessity of change. It's also one heck of an adventure story. Snatch it up!" Michael Swanwick, Hugo award-winning author of Bones of the Earth

"Keith Brooke's Genetopia is a biotech fever dream. In mood it recalls Brian Aldiss's Hothouse, but is a projection of twenty-first century fears and longings into an exotic far future where the meaning of humanity is overwhelmed by change. Masterfully written, this is a parable of difference that demands to be read, and read again." Stephen Baxter, Philip K Dick award-winning author of Evolution and Transcendent


Product details

  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (12 Dec 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1480192406
  • ISBN-13: 978-1480192409
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.3 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,313,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Keith Brooke's first novel, Keepers of the Peace, appeared in 1990, since when he has published six more adult novels, six collections, and over 60 short stories. For ten years from 1997 he ran the web-based SF, fantasy and horror showcase infinity plus, featuring the work of around 100 top genre authors, including Michael Moorcock, Stephen Baxter, Connie Willis, Gene Wolfe, Vonda McIntyre and Jack Vance. His novel Genetopia was published by Pyr in February 2006 and was their first title to receive a starred review in Publishers Weekly; The Accord, published by Solaris in 2009, received another starred PW review and was optioned for film. His quirky fantasy, The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie, described by Adam Roberts as "A masterclass in how to transcend labels...everybody, of whatever age, should read it" came out in April 2010.

His latest novel is alt.human (UK title), also known as Harmony (North American title), published by Solaris in 2012 and shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award. Writing as Nick Gifford, his teen fiction is published by Puffin, with one novel also optioned for the movies by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish's Caveman Films.

He writes reviews for The Guardian, teaches creative writing at the University of Essex, and lives with his partner Debbie in Wivenhoe, Essex.

Product Description

About the Author

Keith Brooke's first novel, Keepers of the Peace, appeared in 1990, since when he has published seven more adult novels, six collections, and over 70 short stories. His novel Genetopia wasfirst published in hardback by Pyr in February 2006 and was their first title to receive a starred review in Publishers Weekly; The Accord, published by Solaris in 2009, received another starred PW review and was optioned for film. His most recent novel, Harmony (published in the UK as alt.human), is a big exploration of aliens, alternate history and the Fermi paradox published by Solaris in 2012. Writing as Nick Gifford, his teen fiction is published by Puffin, with one novel also optioned for the movies by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish's Caveman Films. He writes reviews for The Guardian, teaches creative writing at the University of Essex, and lives with his wife Debbie in Wivenhoe, Essex.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich, intriguing and orignal 28 Feb 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Brooke very skillfully creates a rich, intriguing and orignal world for a grim but hopeful hero-quest. The main plot, following Flint as he goes out into the wild to reach the big city via a tortuous path, slowly reveals a depopulated post-industrial world of slavery and mutated human castes. This is broken by a few well-placed interludes that give insights from other character's perspectives, revealing the hopes of the enslaved Mutts and the mini-quest of Henritt for example. There's no great exposition, but there are hints this isn't imagined too far in the future, and that gene-therapy and nanotechnology was meant to create a world of modified natural organisms for sustaining humanity. But Flint demonstrates that meditation and accepting change are more valuable than the comforting nannying of an Oracle or sustaining a class bred for servitude. This is perhaps closer to the modern post-environmental crisis theme as in Paolo Bacigalupi's Windup Girl than Jack Vance's Dying Earth fantasy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Winds of Change 21 Aug 2013
By Jason
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Years ago I read a couple of Keith Brooke books (Expatria and Expatria Incorporated), so I was intrigued when I saw the blurb Genetopia. I'm a fan of future primitive stories, and this seemed similar to Chris Beckett's excellent Dark Eden (which I've also reviewed).

And I wasn't wrong. On the surface the story is simple. Flint goes in search of his sister Amber, who has disappeared and their abusive father shows no interest in finding her.

His serch takes him out to the wider world, and it's (mainly) through his eyes that you explore the world he inhabits. There are gradiations between humans and animals, with animals being raised up to intelligence, and humans being devolved (or just altered) by change vectors carried the wind. Humans can also be purposely altered for punishment, or by choice.

This may read like a fantasy book in some ways, but a culture still adapting to the higher biotechology of their predecessors, and hints that the 'humans' that are around may not be the same as the humans that settled on the planet, means this is definitely science fiction.

Around the hero-quest plot, Genetopia asks one basic question, whether it is better to resist or embrace change. There are also allusions to slavery in pre-Civil War America, and the occasional change in Points of View give a sly glimpse on how well we truly know those we come into contact with.

I gave this 4 rather than 5 stars as I thought Flint's character could have done with a little more depth. But as you can tell, I'm a fan.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed 25 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am a keen sci-fi reader and I chose this book because of the good reviews. It didn't come up to what I was expecting but I have read worse.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb parable disguised as a thriller 17 Feb 2006
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In the ancient settlement Trecosann, Flintreco Eltarn notices by her playful flirting with the Tallyman that his younger sister by four years Amberlinetreco is on the verge of maturing into a young woman. Still he rejoices that there remains enough of the child that he grew up with.

However, during a Treco clan gala, Flint cannot find Amber; he soon concludes that she is simply gone. No one seems concerned except Flint who knows she may have decided she had enough abuse from their cruel father and left on her own accord; however more likely Flint assumes the worst that slavers abducted her thinking she is a mutt for market. Feeling nothing toward any other member except perhaps hatred of his father, Flint decides over the objection of his kin, to search for the only family member he cares about, Amber; when he finds her as expects to do he will insure her safety even if he has to battle slavers and slave owners.

The above two paragraphs are the opening gambit in a futuristic tale in which biotechnology has gotten out of control. There are a few purebred humans who are subject to being tossed into the changing vats. There are also Mutts who are slaves whispering that one day they will be free; obvious parallels to the slavery of this country add depth. This is a thought provoking science fiction story that is more a coming of age tale that condemns any "ology" or ism that cause harm. The fascinating story line contains several interesting spins. For instance ironically the audience knows up front what happened to Amber while Flint can only conjecture while he learns who he is in a world off kilter, as Amber is just the mechanism to propel the hero to begin his quest. Fans of deep thrillers will appreciate this fine parable of a man frightened by what the future holds, but sets forth anyway.

Harriet Klausner
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To be or not to be human... 19 Jun 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Genetopia is about a dangerous world and its inhabitants. It's not a dangerous world because it's filled with monsters but because it can make a monster of anyone who touches, drinks, breathes, or walks in the wrong place. Nano- and biotechnology got into the wild a long time before our story, and True humans are doing everything they can to remain the dominant species. In this world any deviation from the norm can mark you as non-human and cost you your liberty or your life.

It's a marvelously rich book about what it means to be human and where we'll go in the future. It's also about a boy's journey into manhood and all the lessons he learns. In many ways this reminded me of Huckleberry Finn. It's a book that makes you think and that makes it a book worth reading. For the complete review see the February issue of SFRevu.com.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars British Male Octavia Butler 7 Mar 2013
By Rebecca A - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I have really enjoyed reading Keith Brooke's work. I loved Octavia Butler's writing style and way of thinking; she writes what I think of as organic sci-fi. I was very saddened when she passed and grieved her loss, sad as that sounds.

I have not found someone who compares to Octavia until Keith Brooke. I like how he writes a great sci-fi organic story, yet really addresses some current and social issues. Definitely looking forward to reading more future work from him.
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Potential, Mediocre Execution 16 April 2014
By Bitter Lawyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
An inventive and interesting world populated by flat characters. The plot meanders around rather aimlessly, then just kind of stops. The prose feels dry and emotionless, which is odd given the subjects covered. The themes lack subtlety, sprawled out before the reader right from the start without any mystery or sense of discovery. Overall this reads like a first draft where the author was just beginning to work out the ideas that he wanted to examine. Which is a shame, because the world had potential.
4.0 out of 5 stars Interestin apocalyptic fiction 31 Dec 2007
By John Ottinger III - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Some readers may find that Brooke has a tendency to overtly state what he is trying to convey in the story. Rather than layer the theme in subtlety, Brooke has instead opted to simply have his characters think, say, or feel exactly what he is trying to teach. The story might seem a little preachy to some readers, spending more time on trying to teach the reader something about change than to tell a story. But this is not a thinly veiled social commentary. It is a good story, simple, and written in tightly packed scenes that come from Brooke's skill as a short story writer. Each scene is powerful in its own right, and each chapter tells a mini-story, and the whole makes an enjoyable novel. Like most short story writers, Brooke is writing with economy, not using many words to relate the narrative, but rather striking right to the heart of the issue.

Genetopia is well-written, asks good questions, and provides an unusual answer. The resolution is heartwarming and sad all at once, and wraps up the story in an unexpected way. Like Heinlein and other science fiction authors, Brooke is asking questions about the nature of humanity and the role science plays in defining that humanity in the future. In Brooke's vision, science has changed us into something different, not better, nor worse, only different. Flint and Amberline are compelling characters, and their journeys take quite a few unexpected twists. Brooke has written a tight, interesting, and unusual novel in Genetopia that I recommend as a good read for those who want to explore the nature of humanity and for those readers interested in the lost civilizations style science fiction.
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