About 20 years ago I read a book that revolved around a future where genetic engineering is so commonplace that people visit genetic engineering parlors much like they do tattoo shops IRL now. At these genetic modification parlors people would have their genetic code rewritten to be more snake-like or wolf-like (so much so that they became cold-blooded or could eat raw meat, respectively) or whatever else they could think up (e.g. zombie-like or even mythical creatures such as sphinx-like). Central to the story was a genetic engineer who was a preeminent master in the field, and I forget how or why but towards the end of the novel he is killed but not before he releases a genetic modification virus planet-wide that is assumed will modify the genetic makeup of all humankind to be more kind and altruistic. I also vaguely remember another main character of the book being a female confidant to the master genetic engineer fellow.

To the best of my recollection this futuristic sci-fi story did not contain any elements of space exploration, and just occurred on Terra. Thought it was important to denote that because so much wonderful sci-fi occurs in interplanetary settings, whereas I'm pretty sure this novel just occurred on Earth.

I know it's not much to go on but I hope someone will recognize this book I'm thinking of! If any more details come to me I will be sure to post them.

As far as I know, this book was not part of a series and was a stand-alone novel. Also, I have tried but haven't had any luck searching for this novel on the interwebs...

I'm highly confident that I read this in a paperback novel form.

  • 1
    Hi William. You've tagged this as a novel but you use the word story throughout the description. Can you confirm whether this was a novel or a short story (at the time of writing you have an answer suggesting a short story)? Also you've tagged it as young adult, but the description doesn't seem like a young adult book. Can you clarify what made it young adult? Aug 29, 2019 at 17:16
  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! Nice question, lots of details, but just in case it might help you remember anything else, you should check out the suggestions for story-id questions.
    – DavidW
    Aug 29, 2019 at 17:18
  • @JohnRennie sorry for causing the story/novel confusion! I do remember reading this in a paperback novel format, I will update my question accordingly. Also, I tagged it as "young-adult" because I read it at the time I was a young-adult ha. I guess I'm not sure if it would meet the "technical" definition of young-adult though...
    – William
    Aug 29, 2019 at 17:26
  • @DavidW, thanks for that link! I didn't see that before but I'll look over it and see if I can update my question in any ways to help better identify the book.
    – William
    Aug 29, 2019 at 17:30

1 Answer 1


Could this be David Brin's The Giving Plague (1987)?

Not all villains succeed at being evil. Not all diseases deserve the word plague. Fate can be ironic indeed. The chilling short story, The Giving Plague, follows microbiologist Forry, a self-proclaimed cynic, jealous of his “boy wonder” colleague who discovers a unique virus that could change humanity. Transmitted by blood donations, the virus manipulates humans toward altruism and charity. Forry decides that he will do anything to take credit for this discovery…until a more deadly alien virus infects the human race, forcing him to wrestle with his own inner demons.

  • If this, or any other answer, is the correct one for you, you can click on the checkmark by the voting buttons to accept it.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 29, 2019 at 17:11
  • And if so, this will be a dupe of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/180200/…
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 29, 2019 at 17:14
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    Thanks for the response! Unfortunately that's not the book, in the story I'm thinking of the "altruistic genetic engineering virus" part happens at the very end, nor were there any traces of "alien" elements (that I can remember).
    – William
    Aug 29, 2019 at 17:20
  • Wow, I completely fail to recognize the story from this description. Except for a few keywords that sounds almost nothing like the story I recall... Wow.
    – DavidW
    Aug 29, 2019 at 18:01
  • @DavidW: I've never read the book. Do you think I should poke around for a better summary?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 29, 2019 at 19:22

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