When Jack Valone, a hard-drinking, down-on-his-luck science journalist well past his Pulitzer Prize days, gets a phone call from a geneticist promising the "scoop of the century", he's curious but more than a little skeptical. But when he goes to do the interview, he arrives in the middle of perhaps the weirdest crime scene investigation of all time. His subject is missing, the room is covered in his blood, and the perpetrator appears to be... a flying werewolf? Soon Valone is pursuing a shadowy group of geneticists working far, far beyond the bleeding edge of genetics and technology. It's the story of a lifetime... IF he can survive long enough to publish.
A re-envisioning of the underlying concepts —if not the actual plot—of H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau in the light of the dawning age of genetic engineering, The Moreau Factor is the last non-serial novel of noted 20th-century speculative fiction writer Jack Chalker. The book represents something of return to form for Chalker, with a tighter plot and harder science than some of his lengthier efforts. Well worth the read, if you can find a copy.
Contains examples of:
- Gender Bender: Not so prominent as in some Chalker books, but addressed to the extent that it is implicit in the subject matter. note The only explicitly gender bent characters are all turned into hermaphrodites.
- Happiness in Slavery: The "Puff Girls", an entire species of genetically engineered hermaphroditic lab assistants with a very odd semi-inorganic metabolism that gives them near-total immunity to virtually all toxic substances and biohazards. They're perfectly happy as long as you give them something to do and let them have babies.
- Hermaphrodite: Several species of them, largely by accident due to pleiotropy.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The scientists were forced to become their own creations.
- Humans Are Bastards: Played with. The shadowy conspiracy behind Project Moreau are all bastards, and their victims are worried that the rest of humanity will align themselves with the bastards out of fear if news of their existence leaks.
- Innocent Fan Service Girl: The Puff Girls again. Clothing would get contaminated and wouldn't provide more protection than their skin. Innocent in that humans hold no attraction for them.
- Karmic Transformation: The Evilutionary Biologists claim they were forced to become their own creations by their shadowy employers, ostensibly as a way to keep them under control.
- LEGO Genetics: Specifically averted within the story itself, with a thorough explanation of how pleiotropy makes it impossible.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: Including species of Fish People, humanoid dolphins, and hermaphroditic frog women.
- Second Law of Gender-Bending: More of a case of the second law of transformation: The organization specifically recruits people who would be intrigued by the prospect and uses mind control to enforce the rest.
- Slow Transformation: Transformation via actual biological processes takes months to accomplish.
- Transhuman Treachery: Many of the Transformed have turned their backs on humanity but some have not, through their internal conflict isn't about saving humanity so much as which approach offers the best survival strategy for their own species.
- The Unfettered: Dr. Foo will allow nothing to interfere with her experiments on humans.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Some of the hybrids are... less attractive... than others. It is explicitly noted that may have implications for their future survival.