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Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  741 Ratings  ·  140 Reviews
One of "Nature"'s Summer Book PicksOne of "Publishers Weekly"'s Top Ten Spring 2013 Science Books For centuries, we've toyed with our creature companions, breeding dogs that herd and hunt, housecats that look like tigers, and teacup pigs that fit snugly in our handbags. But what happens when we take animal alteration a step further, engineering a cat that glows green under ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published March 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

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Camille McCarthy
Jun 07, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really disliked this book because it was mostly about a subject I detest (messing with nature through genetic engineering and other types of engineering) but also because it was written in a really irritating style full of cliches and words that annoy me such as "pooches" and "critters". I disliked the way the author tried to put a positive slant on genetic engineering because she did not come across as much of an authority on anything in this book and personally if one does research in the fi ...more
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, nonfiction, science
"For centuries, we’ve toyed with our creature companions, breeding dogs that herd and hunt, housecats that look like tigers, and teacup pigs that fit snugly in our handbags. But what happens when we take animal alteration a step further, engineering a cat that glows green under ultraviolet light or cloning the beloved family Labrador? Science has given us a whole new toolbox for tinkering with life. How are we using it? In Frankenstein’s Cat, the journalist Emily Anthes takes us from petri dish ...more
Dec 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
**3.5 Stars**

Ok, I wasn't sure about this book because I hated the first chapter, so let me break it down by chapter:

Go Fish - I found it a horrible idea and concept that we could eventually get to the point where we were ordering designer pets; pets displaying our team colors or that glow in the dark.

Got Milk? - Phasinating. I really liked reading about Pharming and all the benefits there are to adding antibodies into goat and cow milk. The medical application can become limitless (as long as
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is popular science writing at its best. Anthes takes us on a journey of where life meets the cutting edge of technology, from genetically engineered pets like glo-fish to cloned cats to bionic rats. We learn about deep sea creatures tagged with sensors to give us information about the ocean floor, cryonic tanks full of endangered species DNA, a make-your-own robo-roach kit, and a rescued dolphin with a prosthetic tail.

Antes brings up ethical questions about whether we should or shouldn't m
Georg Gerstenfeld
Despite mediocre writing and a muddle of anecdotes, this book is worth reading. What science can do and is doing to animals needs to be debated in a much more public way. Some of the examples are disturbing, especially the way companies exploit genetic modification to create designer pets that glow in the dark. In the absence of public debate and intelligent discourse, emotional responses by government regulators and their constituents often lead to these genetic engineering technologies migrati ...more
Alyssa Goss
This book is readable but not very informative. The author tends to gloss over how the processes she's describing work in favor of waxing poetic about the possibilities such procedures might create. She's also incredibly biased, making a cursory show of trying to argue both sides but not hiding her blind enthusiasm. She ignores arguments that might force her to present an actual case for say genetic engineering of food, such as the fact that genetically engineered plants have already turned up i ...more
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book. It taught me so much about the rapidly evolving world of genetics & was written so this layperson could understand the science. I do have to tell you that some of what is done is horrifying...and I get that research has its "costs". But I'm uncomfortable with the tradeoffs yet have no satisfying alternative to offer.

No matter what your interest in science...this book is a must read just so you'll be in the "know" for what's happening. And definitely be more in the k
Mark Pepp
Good book that discusses many of the scientific and technological advances that are creating new breeds of living organisms never found in nature... a lot of interesting stuff, but I gotta admit I felt the author comes across as biased in favor of genetically modifying organisms despite the lack of long-term scientific study of consequences thereof
I thought this book was amazing. It was well researched and written in a style that was easy to understand but not dumbed down enough that a little kid could read it. Definitely a book I would like to own.
May 12, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Some years ago, I read a fascinating book by paleontologist Jack Horner, titled How to Build a Dinosaur: The New Science of Reverse Evolution. Since science has proven it is patently impossible to bring back dinosaurs using their DNA (ala Jurassic Park), Horner instead proposes an intriguing alternative: reverse-engineering dinosaurs from birds. The entire book explains how, through evolutionary development (or "evo-devo," as Horner calls it), scientists may genetically manipulate a chicken so t ...more
Alicia Rossano
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a really nice, easy introduction to issues of biotechnology and animals. I am very much a beginner in exploring this field of knowledge (purely out of my own curiosity), and I would recommend this as a good starting point. It gives the reader a fairly broad tour of the different projects and research that has come out of biotech, from transgenic fish and goats to cyborg rats and insects. While the author shows the many benefits that such technologies can be capable of, she al ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was filled with TERRIBLE puns and about ten pages discussing prosthetic animal balls. Don't worry she made puns about that too. This was painstaking for me to read but I have to admit some of the topics were pretty interesting. Other ideas really creeped me out.
Brian Clegg
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my experience, more scientists like dogs than cats (a dangerous assertion, I admit), which is why, perhaps, a cat ended up on the receiving end of the most famous thought experiment in history, Schrödinger’s Cat. Although the cat in Emily Anthes’ title obviously owes its existence to its hypothetical quantum cousin, though, this isn’t a book about thought experiments, but the real things. From fluorescent fish to cyborg animals, this is the story of what we are really doing – or planning to d ...more
Becky B
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Emily Anthes does a superb job of giving us a tour of the weird and wonderful (and sometimes sad and freaky) world where the animal kingdom meets biotechnology. She covers topics as varied as playing around with genomes, cloning, sensor implantation and tracking devices, prosthesis, and cyborg experiments. She explains the science behind the technology in easy to understand language (I think...I admit I'm not the best judge of how well it explained it for someone with no science background since ...more
DeLene Beeland
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frankenstein’s Cat is written in an entirely accessible manner. It’s sometimes whimsical, sometimes humorous, deepy informing—and always understandable. Anthes’ love of alliteration is sprinkled throughout the text with cheeky phrases such as “creature copies, cloned kittens, feathered fowl, and robo rats.” She clearly explains scientific and technical processes while also probing what biotech experiments and applications mean in philosophical, moral, ethical and ecological frameworks.

Anthes exp
Apr 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un trattato molto interessante, frutto per lo più di ricerca e interviste, un’attenzione al mercato e alla storia recente. L’argomento, esplicitato nel sottotitolo “Le Nuove Frontiere nell’Ingegneria Genetica Animale” è un poco restrittivo in quanto si narrano anche le attuali tecniche per creare animali cyborg e si affronta la questione etica di quando e se e perché modificare gli animali con queste nuove tecnologie. Questo è il fattore discriminante: nuove tecnologie, in quanto da millenni mod ...more
Kasey Jane
Although every situation is different, if I had to choose a side I suppose I would be pro-biotechnology. While there are legitimate reasons to invoke the precautionary principle over, say, genetic modification, there is so much fearmongering in news and politics that it drowns out the real good that can be done. Frankenstein's Cat responds to the fear with facts in a nice summary of the intersection between technology and the animals in our lives.

This is pop sci, and like the best pop sci it mov
Vincent Chia
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in popular science
I liked this book a lot. A relatively short book at about 180 pages. There were eight chapters in the book and it seemed like you could cut the book in half, with the first half being chapters involving genetic engineering and the second half involving animals augmented with human-made machines or products.

I enjoyed the first half more than the second half.

Chapters 1 & 2 (Go Fish & Got Milk?) were about genetic engineered animals. The first chapter dealing with more "trivial" goals of ge
Oct 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The introduction to Frankenstein’s Cat is frightening to all of those who hold life sacred. It tells of a laboratory in China that is mass producing mutant mice, each with different variants of mutated genes. Some of these manipulations are physical, with tumors or male-pattern baldness, and some are neurological. And just when all of the anti-scientific crowds have gathered to use this book as their creed, Anthes delivers a much different viewpoint on biotechnology in the animal kingdom.

Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've always maintained that the loudest voices were the stupidest in any "debate" on the internet. Most of that can be chalked up to a personal elitism so you don't need to take it too seriously.

Doesn't matter where the loud voices are gathering but due to the subject matter of this book let's look at animal rights. When animal rights activists protest say, marine parks because they decided to watch Blackfish at some point their hearts might be in the right place, but they're really missing an
Brian Psiropoulos
Of interest to animal lovers, eaters, and those concerned with the fate of the [scarequote]natural[scarequote]. Anthes, a science journalist, writes about the cutting edge of animal modification: genetically modified Angelfish and cats that glow in the dark; goats whose milk produces human medicines or spider silk; bionic dolphins; hacked mice and cockroaches that we can steer using remote control; and how cloning might (or might not) save animals from extinction (or restore ones that have alrea ...more
Dec 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm in two minds. On one hand, I'm in favour of biotech myself - I'm that friend who patiently (but with inward enthusiasm) explains the complexities of modern science to others, hoping that once they understand, it will dispel their fears, or objections. But Anthes came off as too eager to highlight the benefits of biotech, not focusing for too long on the dreads of factory farming, or the conditions in laboratories. (I'm not saying that scientists are evil - but even if a lab states that its a ...more
Aug 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received a free copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program in return for an unbiased review.

A quick glance at the other reviews of this book lets you realize it's going to be controversial. Many readers disliked it because they are deeply uncomfortable with the idea of animal modification, and cannot bear to hear it described, some reacted as though they held the author personally responsible for the genetic engineering. Despite what these critics say, the author frequently expre
Debra Daniels-zeller
I'm not sure what I expected with this book and except for the author's opinion which was very probiotech, the first three chapters kept me hooked. I'm not sure about the ethics or the science of this new technology, neither one seems very well explored and the author seems to take the view that science shows this kind of genetic tinkering isn't much different than what we've done since the beginning of time. Also it was hard to come to grips with all the life lost in the name of "science." How ...more
American Mensa
Review by Young Mensan Zander H., age 12, Mid-America Mensa

I appreciated Frankenstein’s Cat for its fascinating explanation about the often baffling subject of bioengineering and its sister sciences. Emily Anthes explains the many sides of today’s modern technology, such as gene modification, cloning, pharmaceutical products (from the farm), prosthesis, animal tag and tracking and gene cryogenics. This book provides a well rounded summary of these complicated sciences without being boring or sim
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, science
Anthes covers an amazing amount of ground, everything from genetically engineered zebra fish, designed to glow under black light (Chapter 1), to dogs who have had their sight restored through genetic engineering (Chapter 8), to cloning (Chapters 3 & 4) , animal prosthetics (Chapter 6) and do-it-yourself kits for remote-controlled, cybernetic cockroaches (Chapter 7). Her research is impressive; a look at her sources in the in-text citations and notes shows everything from personal interviews ...more
Boria Sax
This book is excellent as a fairy current - though, inevitably, rapidly dating - summary of recent developments in biotechnology. Much of this is curious, for example there is now an inexpensive kit available, which enables anyone to steer a cockroach by placing electrodes in its antennae. The author also describes in some detail the state of attempts to clone endangered species and even resuscitate extinct ones. The ethical analysis of these developments, however, impresses me as superficial. T ...more
I picked up a copy of this book because of Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy. I knew she based these books on real science, so I wanted to know more about it (plus friends of mine study Biotechnology and you can never broaden your horizon enough).
The content was good, but the writing style struck me as odd sometimes - I wish the author had kept her personal opinions more at bay. I was expecting a book that had a more or less objective view on these new technologies and developments - or even better, a
John Wolter
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emily Anthes examines the technology and the implications of cloning, genetic engineering, breeding, surgical alteration, prosthetics, tagging, tracking, cybernetics and even mind control of our pets, farm animals, and even wildlife. She examines what we are currently capable of doing and where the future lies, as well as the ethical issues we face as we enter a new world of biotechnologies.

Anthes' coverage of the topics is reasonably complete and surprisingly error-free from my point of view. A
Annie Oosterwyk
This book was certainly thought provoking and interesting. I had no idea science/technology was so far along. Each chapter addresses a new way humans modify animals. Dayglo fish, medicine infused milk, clones of beloved pets and endangered species, implanted tracking devices, animal prosthetics, living drones, and a variety of other engineered creatures.
Scientists are able to do so much that it is imperative we decide where we stand ethically. The positive advances are so important that it woul
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Emily Anthes is a science journalist and author. Her work has appeared in Wired, Scientific American Mind, Psychology Today, Seed, Discover, Slate, Good, New York, Popular Mechanics, Foreign Policy, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere.

Her book, Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts, will be published in March 2013 by Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Emily has a mas
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“Humans are a force of nature—we are, in some senses, THE force of nature—and we influence animals whether we intend to or not. So the real question, going forward, is not WHETHER we should shape animals’ bodies and lives, but HOW we should do so—with what tools, under what circumstances, and to what end… Unless we plan to move all humanity to Mars and leave Earth to rewild itself, we may need to help our furry and feathered friends survive in a world that has us in it. As Kraemer puts it: ‘I’m of the persuasion that we are changing the habitat of wildlife so rapidly that we may have to help those species evolve.” 3 likes
“The troubled middle is…a place where it’s possible to truly love animals and still accept their occasional role as resources, objects, and tools. Those of us in the troubled middle believe that animals deserve to be treated well, but we don’t want to ban their use in medical research. We care enough to want livestock to be raised humanely, but don’t want to abandon meat-eating altogether. ‘Some argue that we are fence-sitters, moral wimps,’ Herzog, himself a resident of the troubled middle, writes. ‘I believe, however, that the troubled middle makes perfect sense because moral quagmires are inevitable in a species with a huge brain and a big heart. They come with the territory.” 2 likes
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