I’m looking for a book I read in the early 2000’s where the protagonist experiments with genetic engineering on himself. Basically, gene editing technology becomes accessible to normal people and a bunch of people start editing themselves.

There’s a scene where the main character adds snake DNA to his own and almost kills himself with venom that his body is producing. He reversed it and tries again, resulting in retractable envenomed fingernails.

Another scene has him hiding out in a farmhouse with a bunch of other modified humans where one of the dudes has given himself Darth Maul-style horns.

The end of the book has the hero and his lady love living on Mars, heavily modified as some sort of bird like creature. On Earth, gene modification has become widespread.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Do you happen to recall the cover art? Any of the place names where the story takes place?
    – DavidW
    Jul 11, 2023 at 3:49
  • This sounds very similar to scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/252888/…, which has two answers. Does one of them match what you're looking for?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 11, 2023 at 4:39
  • 3
    Should death mail-style horns be Darth Maul-style horns? The spell checker strikes again! :-) Jul 11, 2023 at 4:46
  • Could it be Jupiter rather than Mars? Then it could be "The Changeling Plague" (see my answer to scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/252888/… Jul 11, 2023 at 9:53
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    @ClaraDiazSanchez I think the snake part makes this close enough to be worth posting that as an answer.
    – DavidW
    Jul 11, 2023 at 10:42

1 Answer 1


I think that this is The Changeling Plague, a novel from 2003 by Syne Mitchell.

As in the question, gene editing has become rampant, and a virulent plague is released when a wealthy businessman seeks to undo his cystic fibrosis by rewriting his DNA. One of the main characters is a hacker called Idaho, who outfits himself with venomous fingernails:

Idaho held out his right hand; out of cartilage sheaths under his fingernails, he extruded all five fangs. Deadly jeweled drops formed on the ends.

In relation to the "Darth Maul-style horns", there is a character who wants to grow a "ring of cow-horns" around his head.

The recorded image said, “I want a ring of horns, right here.” He placed his fists against his forehead.

He gets his wish:

Nate had long blond hair pulled up in a topknot to display a ring of short golden-white horns encircling his brow. Their color matched the implanted tusks that curled around his nostrils.

Idaho and his girlfriend, Exeter, end the novel by changing their bodies into spacesuits, and equipping themselves with wings to become "bird-like" (or more accurately "pterodactyl-like") organisms, living in the clouds of Jupiter.

The book is available via free loan from the Internet Library.

  • 1
    That sounds like the right book! Thanks! Jul 12, 2023 at 4:37
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    Glad to help @StarsandSwords Can you click the checkmark next to my answer to "accept" it - then people will know that the question has been answered. Thanks! Jul 12, 2023 at 6:47

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