Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

James Barney | How Long Can We Really Live?

July 27, 2011

James BarneyTHE GENESIS KEYHello, and thanks for inviting me to be part of Fresh Fiction.

Have you heard of the INDY gene?  It’s a gene that scientists discovered about ten years ago in fruit flies that can be manipulated to double or triple their life spans.  This is real science mind you, not fiction (I’ll get to the fiction in a moment).  “INDY” stands for “I’m Not Dead Yet,” a Monty Python reference.  Remember the “plague” scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “Bring out your dead!”  Who says scientists don’t have a sense of humor?

The protagonist in THE GENESIS KEY is a biologist named Kathleen Sainsbury, who is diligently studying the INDY gene in fruit flies, hoping to find a similar gene in humans.  She is the founder and CEO of a small biotech company near Washington DC, which is seeking cures for various age-related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Kathleen’s motives are both scientific and personal.  Her grandfather—who raised her from age seven after her parents died at an archeological site in Iraq—is suffering from Stage Five Alzheimer’s.

Let me stop there for a moment.  Many people have asked me how I came up with this particular plot.  Actually, it occurred to me in church one day while I was skimming the Bible. I came across Genesis 6:1-4, which states that Man’s “days shall be a hundred and twenty years,” and I started wondering whether that could be construed as a limit on human life span.  If so, what will happen when we start to exceed it? A bit of research revealed that, in fact, only one person in modern history has ever lived longer than 120 years: Ms. Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at the age of 122.  At the same time, advances in medicine and genetic research will surely push the upper end of life expectancy past 120 years in the coming decades.  So a collision course with Genesis 6:1-4 is imminent!  “What an interesting plot,” I thought to myself that day in church.

Now back to the story.  One night, Kathleen receives a mysterious phone call from an elderly man who says he knew her parents in Iraq and knows why they died.  They meet, and the man gives her a tiny artifact from her parents’ archeological research, which he suggests may aid her scientific research.  The next day, that man turns up dead under suspicious circumstances.

With the help of the artifact, Kathleen’s genetic research indeed accelerates by leaps and bounds, and she soon finds herself on the brink of a miraculous breakthrough: a gene that could extend human life by hundreds of years.  But somewhere in the shadows, powerful unseen forces are watching . . . and waiting.  Suddenly, Kathleen is a target of covert government operatives as she races to uncover the mystery behind her parents’ secret research and brutal deaths—a mystery locked in the human genome, in the sands of antiquity, and the Book of Genesis.

I had a lot of fun writing THE GENESIS KEY.  (I had even more fun when I found out HarperCollins was interested in publishing it!)  The book braids together equal strands of science, religion, archeology, and political intrigue into what readers will hopefully find a compelling tale.  I took great care researching each of those strands, and it is thrilling for me to see the book in print, now being read by people all over the country.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, please pick up a copy of THE GENESIS KEY and let me know what you think!

James Barney

To comment on James Barney’s blog please click here.

No Comments

Comments are closed.