Hi and welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove where it is my absolute pleasure to share with you an excerpt from Off-Target! Check out my review here if you missed it the first time around, but the long and short of it is that I found Off-Target a smart, slightly dystopian, slightly futuristic thriller with a huge heart and I can’t recommend it enough.
Many thanks to Anne Cater for having me on the tour, and to Orenda Books for the excerpt.
Let’s have a quick look at the blurb first:
In an all-too-possible near future, when genetic engineering has become the norm for humans, not just crops, parents are prepared to take incalculable risks to ensure their babies are perfect … altering genes that may cause illness, and more…
Susan has been trying for a baby for years, and when an impulsive one-night stand makes her dream come true, she’ll do anything to keep her daughter and ensure that her husband doesn’t find out … including the unthinkable.
She believes her secret is safe. For now.
But as governments embark on a perilous genetic arms race and children around the globe start experiencing a host of distressing symptoms – even taking their own lives – something truly horrendous is unleashed.
Because those children have only one thing in common, and people are starting to ask questions…
Bestselling author of The Waiting Rooms, Eve Smith returns with an authentic, startlingly thought-provoking, nail-biting blockbuster of a thriller that provides a chilling glimpse of a future that’s just one manipulation away…
‘Here, babe. Get this down you.’
Carmel hands me a decaf latte and sinks into her mycoleather sofa, curling her feet underneath her like a pedigree cat. If you’d told me five years ago that Carmel would buy furniture made from the roots of fungi, I’d have laughed.
‘Thanks.’ I grip the handle, trying not to scald my fingers.
She nods at me. ‘This will blow your taste buds. New variety, only just designed. Vanilla and cocoa notes, all dialled up.’
She eyes me over the rim of the glass. ‘Look, this hang-up of Steve’s about IVF … I know only too well it’s no tea party, but, Jesus, practically everyone’s doing it: for the disease screening if nothing else. You shouldn’t let him bully you out of it.’
I think of Danny, and my gut churns.
‘Honestly, some men would rather die than ask for help.’ She deposits her glass and inspects her nails. ‘Steve should know better, particularly second time around.’
I recall Steve’s face and feel a stab of guilt. I’m not sure I subscribe to such a black-and-white view.
‘Of course, this not-having-a-reason only makes things worse. If you know who the enemy is, you can crack on with it, get things sorted. Like Barry and I did. But if you don’t, well…’ She plucks some fluff from a cushion. ‘I’ve seen it with couples before.’ She pulls a face. ‘Turns ugly.’
The coffee burns down my throat. I’m still waiting for the part where Carmel gives me hope.
‘Come to think of it, I don’t know any couples who are even trying to conceive naturally.’ She nods at me. ‘I’m telling you, Susan, conception through intercourse is becoming positively Neanderthal. What’s the saying? “Sex is for recreation and IVF is for procreation.”’
I shift in my seat. It was different for Carmel: there was never any question about intervention. Barry’s bank provides fertility insurance so they both got tested and discovered Barry carries a mutation in the Huntington’s gene. Fortunately, his faulty gene is in what they call ‘the grey area’, which means he’s highly unlikely to develop symptoms himself, but there was a one-in-two chance of him passing it on. So that was that. Barry and Carmel qualified for PGD – pre-implantation genetic diagnosis – to test their IVF embryos for disease, and got it all done through the company scheme.
Whereas the only intervention I’ve had is a few fertility pills that gave me hot flushes and bloating.
‘Has Steve actually considered the risks he’s taking, leaving it all to chance? He’s had his own profile done, right?’
I hesitate. ‘No.’
Carmel’s face drops. ‘But he works in biotech, for goodness’ sake! You’re telling me he’s prepared to ravage the genomes of mosquitoes and mice, but not even get his sequenced?’
‘He works in corporate affairs, Carmel, not the labs.’
It’s a sore point but I still feel the need to defend him. Steve’s dad died in his fifties. After a heart attack.
I pick at my skirt as the argument floods back.
‘He reckons it’s like unwrapping some kind of “disease fortune cookie”. He says, “What difference does it make? So you find out you’re going to get dementia or heart disease. It just gives you one more thing to worry about.”’
Well! That just makes me want to read Off-Target all over again! You curious for more? No problem: Off-Target is available now in all digital formats and the paperback will follow on 17 February 2022. (Pre)order now directly from Orenda Books here.