Biopunk for the Dystopian Soul
Do human beings have a physical soul? That’s the question at the heart of my new biopunk thriller, Kingdom—an inquiry that’s generated many of the questions I’ve received regarding the book. And so, I’d like to use this opportunity to explain a little more about Kingdom’s conception of the human soul, and how it fits into the narrative structure of the novel.
A Divine Radio Transmitter
Kingdom begins with the premise that a rogue biotech corporation has discovered the gene for the human soul, a gene that can be identified and isolate within the human genome. This discovery, however, raises more questions than it answers, including the big one: Can man replicate this “Omega” gene?
When I talk about the human soul, I think some readers automatically assume I’m speaking about the afterlife—about some metaphysical extension of the self that persists after the death of the physical being. Kingdom rejects this traditional take on the soul, imagining this gene, instead, as a sort of spiritual “middleman,” a divine radio transmitter that keeps us tuned to our Creator, to the larger universe, and, perhaps most importantly, to each other.
I love describing the Omega gene as a spiritual radio station, but the soul isn’t tuned into talk radio or plastic pop; it’s dialed into the divine, and, as a result, can stir emotions and awaken ancient understandings inside of us—apprehensions of the original bond between man and his Creator. I think we’ve all experienced “something” like this divine stirring: maybe you’re walking alone in a field on a clear night, the sky above a sea of shimmering stars. As you’re walking, you get “that feeling,” that fluttering inside, and, for a brief moment, you understand that there is something more. Although there are monks and mystics who can access this feeling with regularity (often through elaborate ritual and meditation) for most of us, it just happens, and then it’s gone.
But this taste, this teaser, does marvelous things to the human brain, things science is only just beginning to understand. And I believe that it’s a reminder that we are, at the end of the day, created beings, bound, forever, to something larger than ourselves. That’s why, when our souls get submerged under the distractions of modern life and the signal starts to fade, we feel a certain emptiness, a sense of anxiety and dread that has become almost synonymous with the 21 st century.
And so, KINGDOM considers what would happen if mankind bioengineered human beings with a non-functioning Omega gene; in essence, if we created a human being completely severed from this divine transmission.
100% Dogma Free
Kingdom is religion neutral. The novel is a gritty biopunk myth chock full of sex, drugs, and violence—at no time do I ever push any specific theology or morality. My religious background is Western Judeo-Christian, and so, naturally, a lot of my allegories and allusions use the language and imagery of that particular religious-philosophical heritage. But, my conception of the human soul is universal; I believe everyone’s got one, regardless of belief, or even nonbelief.
Kingdom isn’t concerned about heaven or hell or grandfatherly old gods or even flying spagatti monsters. Its today that counts, and so the book is focused on the idea of how discovering the soul gene would impact our day-to-day lives. If there is any preaching, its born of a desire to examine a culture where we seem to be drifting further into ourselves, away from each other and whatever universal truth might be out there.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and I hope you enjoy Kingdom.
Anderson O’Donnell presents a biopunk, dystopian noir-esque thriller in this amazing read, KINGDOM. Most people are familiar with the term “cyberpunk,” but “biopunk” is harder to nail down. In many ways, biopunk is similar to the cyberpunk genre, and shares many of the same themes and archetypes: the dystopian future; the overreliance on technology; mega-corporations; a constant and overwhelming flow of data; the anti-hero—these elements are integral parts of both genres.
Both genres are fueled, to some extent, by the sense of rebellion and desire for individual freedom expressed by the original punk rock revolution. But the main difference—the most important difference—is that while cyberpunk focuses on invasive technological modification of the human body, biopunk explores the dehumanizing consequences of biological modification, of re-arranging our DNA in the pursuit of perfection.
Anderson lives in Connecticut with his wife and 2 sons. Anderson himself deems Kingdom as “a thrill-a-minute, bio-punk myth that manages to wrestle with the most pressing issues of the new millennium. O’Donnell has crafted a kickass novel of tomorrow night, when the big party gets raided by the monsters we’ve been building for the last half-century.”
In a secret laboratory hidden under the desert, a covert bioengineering project—codename “Exodus”—has discovered the gene responsible for the human soul.
Somewhere in the neon sprawl outside the nation’s collapsing economic core, a group of renegade monks are on the verge of uncovering a secret that has eluded mankind for centuries.
In a glittering tower high above the urban decay, an ascendant U.S. Senator is found dead—an apparent, yet inexplicable, suicide.
And in the streets below, a young man races through an ultra modern metropolis on the verge of a violent revolution….closing in on the terrible truth behind Exodus—and one man’s dark vision for the future of mankind.
Welcome to Tiber City.