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James Barney | How Long Can We Really Live?

Hello, 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

About the Author

James Barney is a trial lawyer in Washington, D.C. and a former nuclear submarine officer. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1990 with a degree in chemistry and from Yale Law School in 1999. His first novel, THE GENESIS KEY, is a fast paced techno-religious thriller about the discovery of an ancient gene that has the power to change the world forever. James lives in McLean, Virginia with his wife and two children.

Tell us what you think about living for a LONG time and TWO commenters will win a copy each of THE GENESIS KEY




34 comments posted.

Re: James Barney | How Long Can We Really Live?

The research you sifted through to make this book is amazing. It's some of what we wondered about years ago come to life.
(Alyson Widen 1:07pm July 27, 2011)

Wow! What a premise! I can't wait to read it!
(Renee Brown 1:39pm July 27, 2011)

This book sounds like such a wonderful read!! If someone came up with this particular gene, I'm sure the Government wouldn't use it on the population as a whole, because it would bankrupt the country, but I'm sure they would use it to keep their Scientists alive- at least those that knew enough technology to suit their needs, as long as they didn't have any dibiliating disease such as Alzheimer's. I am really looking forward to reading your book, then passing it along to my Husband. I'm sure I'll be telling the Head Librarian in my town to be sure to order it for our local library. Sounds like a great plot - a real page-turner!!
(Peggy Roberson 1:42pm July 27, 2011)

Wow, sounds amazing. I have often wondered about Genesis and the life span. It always talks of men that had their children in their 97th yr and went on the live another 789 yrs, etc. Were their years different or did they live that long? Anyways, the book sounds just up my alley and will have to definitely check it out. Congrats on your novel.
(Vicki Hancock 1:57pm July 27, 2011)

HOw interesting. I was talking with my son about this question just the other day. My grandmother is approaching her 94 birthday and she just keeps going.
(Heather Pearson 2:05pm July 27, 2011)

Sounds like an exciting read with a totally new premise. Very intriguing.
(Jeanne Sheats 2:32pm July 27, 2011)

This book certainly sounds like my cup of tea--anything with archeology does--never mind the other factors. One point, however: The Bible also say that Methuselah lived 969 years (Gen 5:7) and several other "patriarchs" lived long lives.

When I hear of our world's coming overpopulation, I always have to think of a Star Trek (original cast) show in which Kirk and company come to a planet where people don't die and the kinds of problem this caused. There was not enough room for everyone to even stand anymore. Luckily, we are still some ways from that dilemma.

I've been trying to find the relevant ST episode on Imdb.com but have been unsuccessful. It may be "The Omega Glory." (ST:2, Ep. 23) It's about longevity. I can't remember it all that well. After all, it aired in 1968.

I just read this passage in the Bible and God's limiting life to 120 years seems to come after men had lived these long lives. Now I am even more eager to see how you handle all this. I'm certain it makes for an interesting book.
(Sigrun Schulz 2:35pm July 27, 2011)

Very interesting review. Do I smell the next huge bestseller like The DaVinci
Code? I am betting that this book will truly be a huge hit. I truly look forward to
reading it. Congratulations!
Connie Fischer
(Connie Fischer 3:54pm July 27, 2011)

Sounds like a great book! The desireability of living a long time would depend on the quality of life. Even with good health, it could be a strain financially - not many people have good enough finances to live to 120.
(Carol Drummond 6:58pm July 27, 2011)

I love the idea of science and religion crashing in a book. Taking an idea
and formulating it into a novel that is interesting and compelling, is a
science and art. I love novels like this (James Rollins writes a mix like
this). Can't wait to read yours.
P.S. thanks for sharing, you never know where and when inspiration will
(Carla Carlson 7:19pm July 27, 2011)

As science evolves, conceivably longevity could be manipulated and advanced beyond currently documented records. Such development could be welcome where quality and utility of life were to be critical. However, the dangers inherent in complex selection and future accommodation as well could render such extension prohibitive.

Such an engineered prospect raises a multiplicity of troubling suspicions and calamities in the thoughts of this military brat!
(Carla Schuller 7:24pm July 27, 2011)

Your book sounds great...the title caught my attention and the description really drew me in. Can't wait to read it.
(Robin McKay 8:17pm July 27, 2011)

I think if I was going to increase my life span I would want my kids to do it too. I would hate to outlive my children.
This sounds like a great read!
(Patti Paonessa 9:12pm July 27, 2011)

Your book sounds very interesting. I don't want to live longer. My body is already falling apart and I'm not even 50 yet!
(Molly Wilsbacher 10:36pm July 27, 2011)

OK, i am really hoping I win this---this is definitely going on my TBR list!!!!
(Barbara Studer 10:53pm July 27, 2011)

I would love to win this
(Carolyn Baker 12:59pm July 28, 2011)

I don't think I would like to live for 120 years. I might be
extremely tired by then. I would love to read this book
(Lisa Garrett 7:25am July 28, 2011)

This book sounds fascinating. And I wonder what someone would do with the last 20 years of life if they lived to 120.
(Pam Howell 9:48am July 28, 2011)

Extending life sound good if your 20 years old, at 60+ I'm not so intrigued but would love to read your book.
(MaryEllen Hanneman 9:52am July 28, 2011)

This sounds like a great book! Not sure I would like to live past 100 unless I knew my health was good
(Julie Parrish 10:08am July 28, 2011)

I believe that I have a time and a place that I have been given. If it could be extended then I might be interested if I knew that I would be healthy to enjoy it. The plot for the book sounds interesting. It definitely goes along with todays times.
(Pam Scott 10:57am July 28, 2011)

It's a topic I love reading about. Religion and Science are intrinsically opposed, yet work so well together. I look forward to reading this.
(Joan Richard 12:25pm July 28, 2011)

Sounds like a fun book.

I suspect it would depend on the quality of life you have. I know of a man in his 80s who is as active and keeps as busy as anyone in their 30s. And he doesn't show any signs of slowing down any time soon. But my husband had an elderly relative who lived well into her 90s and when the would tell her, "Oh I hope you many more good years, would always reply, "oh don't wish that on me. I don't want to live that much longer."

I think I would enjoy living past 120. I think I would have fun being a crazy old lady.
(Heidi Durham 12:37pm July 28, 2011)

I have mixed feelings about living a LONG time. It is a
bittersweet concept.
(Michele Powell 2:55pm July 28, 2011)

As long as I could be healthy I would love to live a long time.
(Jody Hollenbeck 2:58pm July 28, 2011)

It sounds very interesting and I look forward to reading it
(Amanda Boyer 3:05pm July 28, 2011)

It's a fascinating concept. I would like to extend my time on earth if I have both excellent physical and mental health and if my family and friends have the same option. Being the last leaf on the tree would be sad.
(Anna Speed 3:37pm July 28, 2011)

Your book sounds great!! I don't think that I want to live any longer unless I could stay young and healthy the whole time!
(Dawn Staniszeski 5:48pm July 28, 2011)

Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for giving me a chance
to win it.
(Linda Hall 6:08pm July 28, 2011)

the book and the blurb would be interesting to read i like the cover it catches the eye
(Desiree Reilly 6:43pm July 28, 2011)

THE GENESIS KEY sounds great. I don't want to live past my expiration date. I want quality of life rather than quantity.
(Mary Preston 6:55pm July 28, 2011)

WOW, this book sounds like fantastic reading and I Pray that I win a copy too. YES, I would love to live a very long time so that I can Help out many people during my lifetime. What a Blessing that would be for sure. I cannot wait to read The Genesis Key and may God bless you with more Success too. Thank YOU very much. Cecilia CECE
(Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez 8:32pm July 28, 2011)

It sounds like a very interesting read that took time, effort and research to develop.
(Darci Paice 10:18pm July 28, 2011)

Did you know that scientists have been inserting human DNA into animals for some time now? Thanks for the contest!
(Susan Navidad 3:49am July 31, 2011)

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