Disclaimer: The One by John Marrs was a book my coworker suggested. I wasn’t sold on the book, but once I really sat down to read it, I felt like this was one of the best books I read during the dumpster fire that was 2020. On New Year’s Eve, I cozied up and read through The One. It was either this, or a Netflix serial killers marathon.
The book is about a dating website that can determine someone’s perfect match through a DNA swab. Enduring questions on ethics, romance, beliefs, norms, and data security ensue. Each chapter is dedicated to a different character who tells their story.
In this world, Match Your DNA has been around for a number of years. Within those years, finding your perfect match has become so imperative, not being DNA matched has become taboo and shameful. Some people are even willing to go behind their partner’s back to test their DNA. Relationships can be made or dismantled with a simple swab. Anyone can ask to be swabbed, and you can be matched with anyone, regardless of perceived preferences. Sexuality, gender, and physical attributes (i.e., large, small, tall, short, etc.) have all been thrown on their heads. In this world, within the span of a few years, intolerances have gone down significantly, since anyone can literally be fated to be with others. However, this perceived blessing gets complicated very quickly.
The novel doesn’t necessarily linger on any core idea, but when an issue is presented, the dilemma will make you pause. For instance, where is your DNA going, and for what purpose is it being used? Even now, most DNA labs and companies have lengthy contracts which state that your $99 DNA submission is now owned by the company. They can sell and/or share you information with anyone they please, including law enforcement. With Match Your DNA, anyone can send their used swab for a mere $9.99, which provides basic information of the person’s best match. So, what’s the catch? Either the UK government has consumer privacy protections that are sealed by the Old Ones, or people should really be concerned! These “what if” scenarios are brought up in the novel.
For instance, what if you are in a relationship, and you match with someone else? What if you don’t match with anyone? What if you match with someone who has died, or is in a coma? What if your match is decades older or younger than you? What if you had always considered yourself straight, and you match with someone of the same sex or gender? What if your match is violent, a sexual predator, or just a run-of-the-mill racist? Something that stood out to me that the novel overlooks is that many of the people and places presented are from affluent countries. Even the least wealthy people presented had the ability to hop countries with ease, and could stay in foreign nations for weeks with no issue. Although DNA matching in the novel has proliferated all levels of society, and has become the norm worldwide, poor people gain nothing. They still must deal with the scorn of not being matched, because they can’t afford to be matched. One character exalts the fact that many of the negative -isms have ceased, while ignoring capitalist based classism.
By the end of the novel, you will have laughed, cried, and gasped at the ethical queries that the novel presents. You will also be left wondering if it’s worth knowing your perfect match, the ramifications of discovering said perfect match, or whether it’s better to be left in the dark.