In the near future Gene-Asis is an influential company which produces genetically modified seeds that company marketing material claims will solve world hunger due to their higher yields and resistance to the various disasters that can befall traditional crops. But young advertising executive Serena Swift thinks the company, or at least the seeds it produced, was responsible for her father’s recent death from lung cancer. When the CEO of the Asia-Pacific arm of the company commits suicide in his Sydney office and a scientist who had been involved in a particular set of food trials disappears it seems Serena may be right in thinking there is something worth covering up.
I was pre-disposed to liking this book, being generally ready to believe that big corporations have the ethics of alley cats as I am. The fact that in this instance the cover up involves some fairly abhorrent practices that have at least a passing resemblance to those carried out by real-world companies like Monsanto should have sealed the deal on my enjoyment as I do have very real concerns about those practices. But I’m afraid this book never quite sold its premise to me, spending too much time focusing on its heroine and her endless loop of pretend-guilt over her continued manipulation of the men around her and not enough time establishing exactly what Gene-Asis was doing and what impact its behaviour was having on its victims. Only towards the very end of the novel (the last dozen or so pages) do we get any real sense of the victims of Gene-Asis’ behaviour and it was too late to engage my sympathy.
I should also have enjoyed the gender role reversal from traditional thrillers with the hero role being taken on by a woman. Unfortunately I didn’t particularly like Serena and nor, more importantly, did I believe her as a character. The fact she starts the book as an advertising executive does, I admit, speak to my own prejudice (I hate advertisements and am not overly keen on the people who make them) but even without that I can’t see that I would ever have taken a shine to her. She chose to go to a job interview rather than attend her father’s death bed. Admittedly she didn’t know exactly when he would die but I couldn’t help but think a less selfish person would have put the job hunting on hold for a few days. That aside, we are then supposed to believe that even though she couldn’t miss a single job interview for her father she would put her whole life in turmoil to avenge his death. Perhaps she was meant to motivated by guilt but it seemed to me the beginning of a very self-absorbed kind of focus for the novel. When she starts using her oft-mentioned (very oft) incredible beauty to trick a series of gormless men into taking ridiculous risks to help her out of various tight situations she lost any vestige of interest I had in her. Apparently she failed to notice any irony in the fact that she was doing exactly what she accused the big bad company of, i.e. exploiting anyone she could in any way she could regardless of the risk to them because she needed a certain outcome. I suppose the fact that she verbally beat herself up for a nanosecond or two after each such encounter was meant to separate her from the guilt-free evil businessmen. I’d be curious to know what younger readers make of the book as I did wonder if my inability to relate to Serena was at least partly to do with our age difference (she is mid 20’s I think and I am mid 40’s).
The book did zip along at a fast pace as thrillers are meant to do and the science seems pretty credible. Certainly the computer hacking (a subject I at least know a little something about) is within the bounds of possibility. I think if you found Serena a more sympathetic character than I did you’d find the book a pretty good way to while away a summer afternoon or two.
L.A. Larkin was born in Britain but emigrated to Australia in 1998 and worked as a magazine publisher before studying corporate responsibility, sustainability and strategic public relations and moving on to work for one of Australia’s leading climate change consultancies. She now divides her time between writing thrillers, her public speaking engagements and running thriller writing courses. The Genesis Flaw is her debut novel.
My rating: 2.5/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Author website: http://lalarkin.com/
Publisher: Pier 9 
Length: 362 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: I bought it
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