The first thing that attracted me to this book was the cover: It looked eerie and intriguing. Perfect People is a stand-alone thriller which was a perfect place for me to start with Peter James' books as I have yet to pick up one of the Roy Grace series (which I now intend to do).
According to the blurb, this book has been 10 years in the planning. When the idea first came to James about writing a book about designer babies, it was just that - an idea. Now it is a reality. That makes reading this book all the scarier - we may just be looking at our future.
John and Naomi Klaesson live in California and have lost their 4 year old son to a rare genetic disorder which made them watch him die a slow and horrible death. Still young and desperate for another child, the Klaesson's opt for paying a huge sum of money to geneticist Dr Leo Dettore who has promised them that he can prevent this child from being born with the same disorder that killed their son. What soon become apparant is that Dr Dettore can also offer them so much more scope in "designing" their next child.
This book poses so many questions and will undoubtedly make you think about what you would do in the same situation. Being faced with the option to make your child more empathetic (but would that make them a playground bully target?) or allow them to survive on only a few hours per night like many CEOs and politicians do (but would that mean that they may have sociopathic tendancies?) what would you decide? These are the dilemas that also face the Klaessons when going through page after page of tick-box options. The Klaessons are normal people, they have normal jobs, they live in a normal house and they only thing they really want is a disease-free child...but does that mean that they can't be tempted by anything else?
What makes this book so compelling is that it becomes apparant pretty early on that something isn't quite right. It's so difficult for me to be say anything more about the plot as it really would spoil it, but what I will say is that with fairly short chapters that have a tendancy to end at a point where you can't possibly put the book down, then this makes for one migthy page-turner.
Verdict: An amazing thriller. One that will make you question what you would do, one that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and one that has sufficient twists to keep you on your toes and not get too comfortable...
I'm partial to Peter James' `Roy Grace' detective books but the summary for this one had me hooked, as did the eerie looking cover. With a Peter James book you're pretty much guaranteed a stellar read, so I was curious to know just how good this standalone thriller/sci-fi book would be. It definitely took me by surprise and though it couldn't be more different from his detective books, I found myself gripped by both the premise and the plot.
I won't summarise the novel as that has been done more than adequately enough already, but I will say that the subject matter is controversial yet the writing is pulled off brilliantly. As a reader you do have to suspend your belief on occasions', though the matter of genetics and designer babies is certainly becoming more of a prominent subject in today's society so it does make you think about what could happen and what you would do if you were in the same situation.
Parts of this book genuinely gave me chills, the underlying feeling all the way through is that nothing is quite what it seems and to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it- and then some! As a reader you begin to understand that the `perfect people' created in this novel aren't really 'normal' by societies standards and wonder what they will do next.
Though I really enjoyed this book, I can concede that it has a few flaws which is what prevented me from giving it the full five stars, though for entertainment value alone that could have been the case. Some of the parent's rather laissez faire reactions to their children's extraordinary abilities caused me to roll my eyes on occaision- particularly the fathers! I also found Naomi's behaviour to veer dangerously out of character towards the end of the novel and generally I couldn't really feel any sort of connection towards either of the parents as they weren't particularly likeable people. My main sticking point was the abrupt ending though- whilst it was carefully crafted to be quick and leave the reader going: "noooo!" I did think that it could have been drawn out just a teeny bit more than it was after investing so much time in the book.
Nevertheless, despite these little gripes, I really did enjoy this novel and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fast paced read with a plot that definitely makes you think.
on 14 June 2012
I have been a great fan of Peter James's Inspector Grace novels, although in the last one, with its sadistic mafia hitman and strange development in the missing wife subplot, he seemed to be straying into Harlan Coben territory, if not the realms of fantasy. In Perfect People, he has embraced the fantasy element wholeheartedly.
John and Naomi, understandably anxious to avoid the heartbreak of losing a second child to a rare genetic disorder, borrow a huge sum and go to a dodgy doctor specialising in genetic modification. His clinic operates from an offshore cruise liner due to the illegality of what it does and threats from religious objectors (I am rather tired of the current trend to portray all religious people as homicidal nutcases, but to be fair, the scientists in this book don't come out much better). Naomi duly conceives, but from the first scan the couple begin to realise that they have not been told the whole truth and that they might be in for a few shocks. Once Naomi gives birth via a nightmare caesarian, she and John are briefly happy until threats from the murderous religious group necessitate their fleeing to England. Then the shocks come thick and fast, never letting up till the very end of this rather bleak story.
Mr. James is a good writer - his characters are well developed and you care about them. Ridiculous as the plot becomes - and it gets very silly indeed - you can't help reading on and wondering when or if this poor couple, who only ever wanted a healthy child, are going to get a break.
In a note at the end, Peter James says he researched carefully and everything which happens in the story is possible. Maybe so, and there is undoubtedly room for a novel which explores the risks and potential consequences of extreme genetic manipulation. However, Perfect People reads like Rosemary's Baby Meets The Omen in a Brave New World. It's a page-turner, but I didn't believe a word.
on 5 November 2011
For Peter James readers who are only familiar with his Roy Grace series, this might seem like a real departure from his normal writing. However, for those familiar with his earlier, stand alone works, this is a very welcome `return' to his more spine chilling thriller genre.
With advances in science and genetics, making `Designer Babies' somewhat a reality, it makes this book, one of the most thought provoking books I have read in a long while. Initially, you think that it is all fantastical, but once you think about what is actually scientifically possible today - it is possible these days to choose the sex, hair and eye colour of the child - it becomes quite a scary thought. It really does make you question what you might do in similar circumstances.
As in all of his books, Peter James is able to evoke many different emotions in his readers immersed in his words, and Perfect People is no exception. Emotions ranging from happiness to sadness, fear to excitement, and lots of others in between.
Like other reviewers point out, it is not easy to say a great deal about the plot without giving away the twists and turns that Peter James is so well known for, keeping his readers gripped and thrilled from page one to the very end of the book.
This, as always, is a fantastic read. One that I can, and will be, highly recommending it to my friends, family, work colleagues, and indeed, anybody else I come into contact with, who enjoys reading!
on 30 October 2011
A very long way away from the Roy Grace detective series this is a superb stand alone novel by Peter James.
It's a classic 'page turner' I was itching to get to the end to see what happened and was not disappointed at all. Without giving anything away the final few paragraphs are poignant and unexpected. I had my own thoughts as to what might happen but never went down this track.
A great read in its own right, Perfect People will however make you think about what might just be happening behind closed doors and unfortunately it's not pleasant.
I hope it's a sign of things to come though (in the literary world!) as while I love the Roy Grace series this has proved again how much talent James has and I really hope there are more to come.
on 28 October 2011
A move away from the Grace series and for someone who has read all of this author's books a welcome return to the stand alone thriller. I understand this book and topic have been in the construction phase for some time and it is timely to address the issues raised in this book albeit written as a thriller. One debate will be the future of genetically engineered children and of course the avoidance of deadly inherited genes passed on by one or more of the parents would be welcomed by most but the question raised is where would this "manipulation " stop. This book gives a potential insight into that world but in a way that allows the reader to perhaps share their own concerns with the main characters.
I think the right balance has been struck between fictional story and airing this potentially controversial subject manner and certainly as far as I am concerned having read the book it has allowed me to ask questions of myself as to how far I might go as a parent to attempt to secure the well-being and potential of future offspring. A good read which asks more questions than provides answers. I have avoided including the plot in detail to allow readers to discover the issues as they arise and not spoil the story.
on 8 November 2014
This is the first book by Peter James I've read outside of his Roy Grace series of detective novels, and I wasn't sure what to expect. It's the tale of a couple who find they are both carriers of a genetic disease, and their attempt to have a child that doesn't inherit those genes. It's an exploration of the concept of designer babies, and looks at some of the possible things that would arise.
It's one of the most interesting novels I've read in a while, despite really being more within the thriller genre that crime, and one of the few recently that I've found I wanted to keep reading when I got home in the evening rather than reserve just for my train journeys. The short chapters that James uses make for a very fast feeling plot and really keep the reader engaged.
There are some disturbing scenes - but I've come to expect that from a Peter James novel, and actually I'd predicted that something like that would be coming up, but it's still a bit shocking when it comes. I'm not really sure how the plot makes me feel over all, and I'm not sure either quite what moral the author was planning to put across, if indeed any - if the book was intended to change or challenge my own views on genetics though I'm afraid it didn't feel believable enough for that.
A very enjoyable, if dark, and interesting read throughout, which I'm glad I read. I'm still nervous though about picking up any more of Peter James' novels if they're going to be as intense as this.
on 9 May 2014
Perfect People begins on a perfectly creepy note. John and Naomi are transported by helicopter to a boat moored outside American waters, in the middle of the night. They see no one other than the staff, even though the boat supposedly carries quite a few passengers who have paid a tonne of money to use the services of geneticist Dr Dettore. Now, for anyone that wasn't consumed by grief and a desperation for a child, this would be too freaky for words, but John and Naomi are both - and they choose to undergo fertility treatment under the care of Dr Dettore.
The plot is pretty much an examination of morals - John and Naomi lost their young son to a genetic disease, and although they are desperate for a child, they don't want to risk having another ill child. There are so many debates that I'm not touching with a ten foot pole, but in some ways I do find their logic understandable, even if I didn't completely agree.
Along with the narrative, the book is sprinkled with diary entries made by Naomi - and I was really conflicted whether I liked those entries or not - at times they made me feel quite sympathetic towards her, at others they made me actually dislike her. Overall I actually found both Naomi and John difficult to like and sympathise with, even though there were parts of the story where I felt incredibly sad for both of them.
A lot of the first part of the book is Naomi and John struggling with the decisions they make, which is interesting in a way, but didn't really grab my attention. I was almost desperately reading to see what would happen when Naomi gave birth, and at first I was on tenterhooks....and then a little bored....and then a little ambivalent....and when 'something' finally happened it was creepy but not - evil.
What I really didn't like about Perfect People was the final part of the book - for me it was completely unnecessary and not particularly well thought-out. Perhaps my expectations led to bigger disappointment than if I had gone into this one blind, but it just felt all wrong.
However, I did like how it ended - although there wasn't really much of an alternative, nor did it surprise me in the least. Overall, Perfect People had a lot of great ideas, a lot of potential, but was lacking in execution.
I came across this book while browsing on Amazon, and it sounded intriguing; always one for a good story, of any genre, I hunted it out to read.
The first third of the book is fairly slow; it needs to be, to set up the story, the characters and the premise of the story to follow, but that did make it, at times, a little hard to perservere with. But by the time the book winds itself up for the story as it unfolds a little into the future, the narrative is more pacey, the story more imperative, the action more compelling.
I was left thinking, at the end, that it had all come to a bit of a flat ending. The promise that had been built up in the story, right up to the end, just faded away a bit. That was unfortunate, but perhaps, in the nature of the genetic story that is being told, that's how it had to be? Perhaps humanity aren't ready for the rest of the story as it could unfold in the future.
The story itself is interesting; the premise intriguing; but the book, overall, suffered in a few places from somewhat cliched fanatical overblown writing and characterisation; and I found the wife (mother to be) infuriating; couldn't empathise with her at all. I found myself reading to follow the action; not the characters, from whom I found myself detached and rather uncaring as to their ultimate fate.
I think this story begs for a sequel; taking the premise (which I won't cover here, for fear of spoilers) further into the future, where it could be developed in a more promising manner, and with a more scientific, and a less Evolution/Creation slant overall.
Good; not great; I'm not sorry I read it, but I think the promise of the story, and the premise on which it is based is yet to be realised.
on 17 November 2011
As an avid fan of Peter James, having read all his books, I waited a while for a new book after finishing the last Roy Grace story. I must say I was a bit disappointed. I agree that the book is a definite page turner as I wanted and needed to know how the story was going to pan out, but at the beginning of each chapter I was left wanting more from the previous one.
I cannot quite put my finger on why I won't give this book 5 stars, just too many unanswered questions for me to have put the book down at the end and call it a stunner!
Saying all that, it is a good read, and as usual was unable to stop until it was finished.
I look forward to his new book next year.