I'm trying to find out the title of a book or short story which I can very dimly remember, no idea on date of publication or even the main plotline! If anyone can identify it from what I can remember, it will be a miracle.

One of the characters was an un-altered female(?) child(?) who was shunned because she was ugly, which basically meant that she hadn't been designed to be perfect like all the others. At some point, a whole batch of children who had been altered to have a particular trait suddenly started dying as the trait had a deadly side effect.

I don't even think that this was the main plot, it may have been a side plot or part of the initial scene setting at the start.

  • 1
    This sounds like the basic plot of Gattaca, but that was a guy. Jun 20, 2011 at 18:39
  • and some of the elements sound like Dark Angel series Jun 20, 2011 at 22:37
  • Definitely not Gattaca as it was a book not a film, and I'm almost certain the character was female and was a child when introduced to the reader.
    – Anna
    Jun 21, 2011 at 8:46
  • 1
    If you could maybe provide the year you read this book it'd make it quite a bit easier for us to find the appropriate answer. Until then it's just guessing in it's purest form.
    – zkriesse
    Jul 12, 2011 at 3:06
  • 1
    I've read a very similar short story online somewhere - in that story, the female protagonist was high school age, child of some "hippie" parents. The defect that afefcted an entire generation of children manifested at a particular age, throwing a scare into younger children and their parents. I wonder if this was the same story ...
    – Bevan
    Jul 12, 2011 at 4:17

2 Answers 2


The story you are looking for is "Sisters" by Greg Bear, which you can find in "Tangents" (a short story collection).

It's a freaking awesome story!

Of the seven hundred adolescents in her high school training programs, Letitia Blakely was one of ten NGs -- possessors of natural, unaltered genomes. Everyone else was the proud bearer of juggled genes, PPCs or Pre-Planned Children, all lovely and stable [...]

and later...

It was not a plague.
Across the nation, two million children became ill. One million died.
Letitia read, without really absorbing the truth all at once, that it was the worst disaster in the history of the United States. Riots destroyed PPC centers. Women carrying PPC babies demanded abortions. The Rifkin Society became a political force of considerable influence.

Cover picture

  • Bear said, "Fortunately, this story preceded the excellent film Gattaca, which I highly recommend." --The Collected Stories of Greg Bear May 11, 2014 at 2:26
  • 1
    Added the cover from one printing of it; feel free to roll back if you don't approve. That being said, here is a free online copy (legit) to read to verify if it's the right story :)
    – K-H-W
    May 11, 2014 at 3:22
  • Baen EBook seems to have moved to baen.com/Chapters/ERBAEN0036/ERBAEN0036.htm
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 19, 2016 at 18:32

It sounds a bit like Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. In the books, all kids are surgically modified to be beautiful. When they get the operation, they are also given brain lesions, to make them peaceful and compliant. The books are Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras.

  • 1
    But there is no "a whole batch of children who had been altered to have a particular trait suddenly started dying as the trait had a deadly side effect.", at least not in first three books I have read (from what I remember). Sep 20, 2011 at 21:48

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