The novel “Project Tau” by Jude Austin was published for the first time in 2016. It’s the first book in the Projects series.
Kalin Taylor is about to start college thanks to a scholarship that will allow him to study medicine. However, to be admitted to a college frat house, he must enter a laboratory and take a photograph of Project Tau, a genetically modified creature.
When Kalin sneaks into the laboratory, he’s quickly discovered by security and captured. The director offers to spare him the big legal trouble he could cause if he were willing to undergo a series of medical tests in the laboratory. Soon, Kalin realizes that exams are just the first step in turning him into an experiment, Project Kata.
“Project Tau” is set in a future where humanity has expanded among the stars, and interstellar travel is common. Biotechnology is also developed, and at the center of the novel is GenTech, a company that uses cloning and genetic engineering to create what it calls Projects, which are physically adapted and trained for different types of tasks.
From the beginning of the novel, ethical and moral issues arise regarding GenTech’s operations as the Projects are genetically modified human clones. The situation becomes even more disturbing when Kalin, a normal boy who had the misfortune of being caught in the course of what was supposed to be a dare, is locked up in the laboratory and turned into a Project.
If it weren’t for the science fiction elements, the story could be set in a Nazi concentration camp where prisoners become guinea pigs of various experiments. Projects are not considered humans but products owned by GenTech and subsequently by anyone who buys them from the company. The subject of slavery is included, also to address the issue of what a human being is.
When Kalin is locked up in the laboratory and turned into a Project, he gets dehumanized just like the victims of the Nazis. The training of the Projects is brutal, as is their conditioning to obey their tormentors, a preparation phase which aims to accustom them to obey the future owners to whom they will be sold. It’s not a novel for people sensitive to torture and assorted violence.
The novel is set in a rather distant future, but the biotechnologies described could be developed long before an expansion of humanity into space. It’s no coincidence that there are already many discussions around the ethical and moral problems related to cloning and genetic engineering. What happens in “Project Tau” can bring to mind considerations made regarding the possible biotechnological developments that we can expect in the coming years.
The story is centered around Kalin more than Project Tau but is developed in the relationship between the two of them. They’re very different as Tau was created in the laboratory and knows only that world and the little he was told during his training. Kalin’s influence on Tau is one of the elements developed throughout the novel.
Kalin and Tau are by far the most developed characters in the novel. Some staff members of the GenTech laboratory have some development related to ethical and moral issues. Those are themes developed using events rather than discussions, so the pace tends to be fast.
“Project Tau” has an end, but is rather open to new developments that may come in the sequel that has already been published. The story is brutal but offers interesting food for thought and for this reason in my opinion it’s worth reading it.