Bert Gropes is a reclusive 26 year-old who lives at home with his mother in the farmlands of Woodland, California. He has no money, and he’s about to get fired, again, from the job he loves: teaching social studies to middle schoolers. He knows about those problems. What Bert and his mother, Eugenia Gropes, don’t know until it’s too late is that before he was even born, someone genetically altered him in vitro, along with the course of his natural life. A single gene from a Libidoan monkey—an oversexed great ape native to the Caribbean’s Isle Libido—was inserted into Bert when but a wee little bit of biomaterial.
As destiny and history play out, Bert finds trouble of biblical proportions. He’s accused of terrible crimes in Tennessee for his role in the death of a thrill seeker who downloads an app developed for sexless farm roosters but that’s been repurposed by the real culprit, Dick Slayde of Internet giant Primal Urge, for human use as the ultimate electronic tonic: Hot Monkey Love. Making matters worse, Tennessee’s favorite son, Senator Ray Hoffenworth, comes home to Dayton to be the prosecuting attorney and make an example of Bert. The defense, offered by Bert’s celebrity animal rights activist lawyer, Clarene Eliza Dare, captures the world’s attention: Can a defendant with a single nonhuman gene be tried for murder as a person, as that term is understood by our laws, any more than a dog or a cat?
When the legal titans clash in court over the consequence of Bert’s mixed-up genetic sequence, it’s the Scopes Monkey Trial all over again. Except one thing: The story’s DNA has been mutated—comically and dramatically recombined with strands harvested from today’s news—and twisted into a tale that only the coming age of biotech could dish up.