The best mutation books

Who picked these books? Meet our 18 experts.

18 authors created a book list connected to mutation, and here are their favorite mutation books.
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The Chrysalids

By John Wyndham,

Book cover of The Chrysalids

Jane Rogers Author Of The Testament of Jessie Lamb

From the list on believable British stories set in the near future.

Who am I?

Writing my eighth novel, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, I had to move the story into the future in order to explore the topics I was trying to understand. I think through writing: sometimes I feel it is only through writing that I really engage with the world. Work on Jessie Lamb entailed a lot of scientific and future research, and after that I read more and more future fiction, with an increasing appetite for the work of writers who are really interested in exploring where we are headed as a species, and how we might try to survive the damage we have inflicted on the earth.

Jane's book list on believable British stories set in the near future

Discover why each book is one of Jane's favorite books.

Why did Jane love this book?

I’ve adapted a lot of books for radio, and The Chrysalids is outstanding among them. It’s a gift for radio, as radio is the one medium where telepathy can be convincingly portrayed, by a simple change of acoustic effects.

I loved it before I adapted it, for the clear and engaging first-person narrator, and for the brilliance of its story; genetic mutation has devastated the world, and mutants are ruthlessly hunted down and destroyed. Then a group of children is born with telepathic powers - in the eyes of their families and friends, yet another kind of mutation. But for the children, a power that fosters community and hope. 

By John Wyndham,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Chrysalids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the community of Waknut it is believed mutants are the products of the Devil and must be stamped out. When David befriends a girl with a slight abnormality, he begins to understand the nature of fear and oppression. When he develops his own deviation, he must learn to conceal his secret.

Cold Storage

By David Koepp,

Book cover of Cold Storage

Claire Kells Author Of Vanishing Edge

From the list on surviving man, nature, and our own demons.

Who am I?

When I was nine, I was chased by a dog in the woods. It was barking and drooling and seemed intent on attacking me. For all I know, that dog was somebody’s pet, but I was terrified. It took me years to get over a fear of dogs, and even longer to get over a fear of the woods. I suppose that’s why I’ve always gone back to the wilderness as a setting for my novels; I love stories that tap into my strongest emotions. I’m also a physician, and I like exploring what makes us vulnerable—and resilient. 

Claire's book list on surviving man, nature, and our own demons

Discover why each book is one of Claire's favorite books.

Why did Claire love this book?

I will admit I came to this book for the author. David Koepp is a renowned screenwriter whose credits include Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible, among many others. Screenwriters have to work within the confines of a 120-page format, so it’s no wonder that this novel moves at a lightning pace. I love that it features a deadly fungal organism that could end humanity, but the story is really about the three people desperately trying to contain it. 

By David Koepp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cold Storage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Gruesome, terrifying, pulse-pounding' Stephen King

Shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger Award for Best Thriller of the Year

'Frightening' Mail on Sunday

When Pentagon bioterror operative Roberto Diaz was sent to investigate a suspected biochemical attack, he found something far worse: a highly mutative organism capable of extinction-level destruction.

Now, after decades of festering in a forgotten sub-basement, the specimen has found its way out and is on a lethal feeding frenzy. And only Diaz knows how to stop it.

He races across the country to help two unwitting security guards - one an ex-con, the other a single mother.…

Extinction Horizon

By Nicholas Sansbury Smith,

Book cover of Extinction Horizon

R.A. Seckler Author Of Containment Zone

From the list on zombies that can think.

Who am I?

I hated reading as a kid. It wasn’t until I was in college I picked up Chuck Pahalniuk’s Survivor and fell in love with books and writing. Since then, I’ve been a non-stop reader and writer. I’d consume on average a book a week (sometime’s more) and write fiction every day. My first novel Containment Zone, combined my love of horror and zombies with themes of coming to terms with the end of one’s life and how we treat the elderly and infirm. For me, writing horror stories is a way of exploring deeper aspects of what it means to be human, all while having some thrills and chills along the way.

R.A.'s book list on zombies that can think

Discover why each book is one of R.A.'s favorite books.

Why did R.A. love this book?

Call me weird. I’m not a fan of series books. Unless, that is, they’re written by Nicholas Sansbury Smith. The problem with a book series for me is that I get bored of the same idea book after book after…zzzzzz. But when someone writing a book series is constantly bringing new ideas to the table, it keeps me reading. Couple that with characters we care about, and a heavy focus on moving the plot forward, and I’ll finish a book in no time and be eager to read the next one. This, my friends, is the first book in one of those series. 

By Nicholas Sansbury Smith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Extinction Horizon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The worst of nature and the worst of science will bring the human race to the brink of extinction...

Master Sergeant Reed Beckham has led his Delta Force Team, codenamed Ghost, through every kind of hell imaginable and never lost a man. When a top secret Medical Corps research facility goes dark, Team Ghost is called in to face their deadliest enemy yet - a variant strain of Ebola that turns men into monsters.

After barely escaping with his life, Beckham returns to Fort Bragg in the midst of a new type of war. As cities fall, Team Ghost is…


By Michael Crichton,

Book cover of Next

Jack Kelley Author Of Crystal and the Underlings: The future of humanity

From the list on that capture the not-so-distant future.

Who am I?

Ever since middle school, when our teacher promised that we would have flying cars in our lifetimes, I’ve had a keen interest in scientific and technological breakthroughs. And now, with the advancements in Artificial Intelligence and genetic engineering, my interest has only grown. I love technology, but my concern is that with the acceleration of AI, science is outpacing common sense. Are we creating our replacements? I hope you read my new novel: Crystal and the Underlings: the future of humanity, and discover what could happen when AI takes over!

Jack's book list on that capture the not-so-distant future

Discover why each book is one of Jack's favorite books.

Why did Jack love this book?

When I read Michael Crichton’s Next, my first thought was that we’re entering a dangerous time with our ability to manipulate the genomes of many different species.

The central message is about the possible negative ramifications of manipulating the DNA of humans and other animal species and even the creation of transspecies. Crichton leads us through diverse stories of corporate greed to the life and death struggles of others just wanting a cure for cancer.

Crichton does a masterful job of tying the different agendas into a compelling, interwoven narrative. 

By Michael Crichton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Next as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Number One international bestselling author of Jurassic Park, Congo and Sphere blends fact and fiction to create a near-future where genetic engineering opens up a whole new world of terrifying, page-turning possibilities...

Is a loved one missing body parts?
Are blondes becoming extinct?
Has a human already cross-bred with a monkey?

We live in a GENETIC WORLD. Fast, frightening - and potentially VERY lucrative. There are designer pets; a genetic cure for drug addiction; a booming market in eggs and sperm. But is there also a talking ape in Borneo? Has a 'master' gene for controlling others been found?…

The Arrival of the Fittest

By Andreas Wagner,

Book cover of The Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution's Greatest Puzzle

Michael Edgeworth McIntyre Author Of Science, Music, and Mathematics: The Deepest Connections

From the list on to get you past selfish-gene theory.

Who am I?

I’m a scientist at the University of Cambridge who’s worked on environmental research topics such as jet streams and the Antarctic ozone hole. I’ve also worked on solar physics and musical acoustics. And other branches of science have always interested me. Toward the end of my career, I became fascinated by cutting-edge issues in biological evolution and natural selection. Evolution is far richer and more complex than you’d think from its popular description in terms of ‘selfish genes’. The complexities are central to understanding deep connections between the sciences, the arts, and human nature in general, and the profound differences between human intelligence and artificial intelligence.

Michael's book list on to get you past selfish-gene theory

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

It’s a powerful update on Noble’s book, zooming in on the workings of the biomolecular circuits surrounding the DNA.

Some of the circuits are studied in great detail, looking closely at how they work, and at how they evolve in response to mutations in the DNA. A disadvantageous mutation is eliminated by natural selection. But as well as advantageous mutations it turns out that ‘neutral’ mutations, conferring no immediate advantage, are important and indeed crucial. That resolved one of the dichotomized disputes noted in Wills’ book.

By Andreas Wagner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Arrival of the Fittest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The power of Darwin's theory of natural selection is beyond doubt, it explains how useful adaptations are preserved over generations. But evolution's biggest mystery eluded Darwin: how those adaptations arise in the first place. Can random mutations over a 3.8 billion years be solely responsible for wings, eyeballs, knees, photosynthesis, and the rest of nature's creative marvels? And by calling these mutations 'random', are we not just admitting our own ignorance? What if we could now uncover the wellspring of all biological innovation?

Renowned evolutionary biologist Andreas Wagner presents the missing piece in Darwin's theory. Using cutting-edge experimental and computational…

More Than Human

By Theodore Sturgeon,

Book cover of More Than Human

Carlos Valrand Author Of The Site

From the list on science fiction about investigations and discovery.

Who am I?

I am a writer, author of the science fiction novel The Site, and a contributor to the website Internet Looks. During my work as an aerospace engineer and manager I participated in NASA and Department of Defense projects such as the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and the USAF C-5A aircraft. I authored various aerospace system functional requirements documents and technical papers, and developed and taught courses in dynamic simulations, aerodynamics, and space vehicle guidance, navigation, and control. When writing fiction, I use my technical background, understanding of physical principles, and documentation to provide clear and concise descriptions and dialog for the reader.

Carlos' book list on science fiction about investigations and discovery

Discover why each book is one of Carlos' favorite books.

Why did Carlos love this book?

I have the 1971 paperback printing of More Than Human, with the Robert Pepper cover art. The book has a special significance for me; although unrelated in plot, it has similarities to my book: it is science fiction, has an unusual structure, a complex timeline, deals with psychology, and features investigation and discovery. The fact that it was written in 1953, before the Internet, Earth satellites, personal computers, and cell phones, facilitates the reader’s attention to the rather complex story. Seven individuals, Lone, Janie, twins Bonnie and Beanie, Baby, Gerry, and Hip, are exemplars of inequality, with peculiar capabilities and shortcomings. The German word gestalt, meaning the forming of a pattern, describes how, together, they embody the next step in human evolution.

By Theodore Sturgeon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked More Than Human as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this genre-bending novel—among the first to have launched sci-fi into the arena of literature—one of the great imaginers of the twentieth century tells a story as mind-blowing as any controlled substance and as affecting as a glimpse into a stranger's soul. 

There's Lone, the simpleton who can hear other people's thoughts and make a man blow his brains out just by looking at him. There's Janie, who moves things without touching them, and there are the teleporting twins, who can travel ten feet or ten miles. There's Baby, who invented an antigravity engine while still in the cradle, and…

The Mutant Project

By Eben Kirksey,

Book cover of The Mutant Project: Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans

Françoise Baylis Author Of Altered Inheritance: CRISPR and the Ethics of Human Genome Editing

From the list on genetic engineering and designer babies.

Who am I?

I'm a philosopher with a specialization in bioethics. My work is at the intersection of policy and practice. It is grounded in a deep commitment to public education, engagement, and empowerment, as well as a strong desire to “make the powerful care.” I maintain that “the human genome belongs to us all. It’s something we have in common, and so we all have the right to have a say.” I believe the pivotal question that we all need to ask is “What kind of world do we want to live in?” Once we have an answer to this question, we can meaningfully address the more pointed question, “Will CRISPR technology help us build that world?”

Françoise's book list on genetic engineering and designer babies

Discover why each book is one of Françoise's favorite books.

Why did Françoise love this book?

This book starts and ends with the story of Dr. Jiankui He, the infamous Chinese researcher responsible for the first CRISPR experiment resulting in genetically modified children.

It chronicles Dr. He’s “meteoric rise to fame” followed by his “dramatic fall from grace.”

In telling this story Kirksey, a cultural anthropologist, entertains the reader with details about interesting characters he meets and places he visits in his quest to both situate this debacle in relation to earlier efforts at genetic engineering and cell therapy in the United States and to confirm some of the contested details about what did or did not happen in China in the years leading up to this “first”.

Along the way, Kirksey lays bare salient facts about conflicts of interests among scientists, the corporate world’s vaunted pursuit of profit, and the ways in which nationalistic aspirations seed unhealthy competition.

By Eben Kirksey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mutant Project as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2021
An anthropologist visits the frontiers of genetics, medicine, and technology to ask: whose values are guiding gene-editing experiments, and what are the implications for humanity?
At a conference in Hong Kong in November 2018, Dr. Jiankui He announced that he had created the first genetically modified babies-twin girls named Lulu and Nana-sending shockwaves around the world. A year later, a Chinese court sentenced Dr. He to three years in prison for "illegal medical practice."
As scientists elsewhere start to catch up with China's vast genetic research programme, gene editing is fuelling an innovation…


By Gregory Benford,

Book cover of Cosm

John Gribbin Author Of Don't Look Back

From the list on science fiction by scientists.

Who am I?

John Gribbin has a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and is best known as an author of science books. But he has a not-so-secret passion for science fiction. He is the award-winning author of more than a hundred popular books about science, ranging from quantum mysteries to cosmology, and from evolution to earthquakes. He has also produced a double-handful of science fiction books. He specialises in writing factual books about the kind of science that sounds like fiction (including time travel), and fictional books based on scientific fact (including climate change). His recent book Six Impossible Things was short-listed for the prestigious Royal Society prize, but he is equally proud of Not Fade Away, his biography of Buddy Holly.

John's book list on science fiction by scientists

Discover why each book is one of John's favorite books.

Why did John love this book?

At the other extreme from Contact, Greg Benford’s COSM involves very small wormholes. Or at least, a wormhole that starts out small. In his variation on the theme, an experiment on Earth accidentally opens a wormhole which in effect creates a new universe, which the experimenters can study and eventually communicate with through the wormhole. Again, real science, but technology a little (this time only a little!) beyond our present capabilities. And it raises the intriguing question of whether our Universe might have been made in this way by a race of superior beings (gods?) in another universe.

By Gregory Benford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cosm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

COSM brings the extraordinary passion, drama and politics of scientific research to life in a stunning near-future thriller.

On an otherwise ordinary day not long from now, inside a massive installation of ultra-high-energy scientific equipment, something goes wrong with a brilliant young physicist's most ambitious experiment. But this is not a calamity. It will soon be seen as one of the most significant breakthroughs in history. For the explosion has left something behind: a sphere the size of a basketball, made of nothing known to science. As the forces of academia, government, theology and the mass media fight for control…