Dr. Liu Jiandan (Jian)
Life in the PRC
Four and a half years before the Novazyme incident in Greenland, Jian is a ward of the state at Lanai Mental hospital. Jian, though clearly brilliant and wanting to return to her genetic research, is a captive to hallucinations in her own mind. In the opening scenes of the novel Jian is in a straight jacket looking at a large hairy orange spider. This is one of the common hallucinations which she sees along with green rats and purple centipedes. Despite having her medication altered and knowing from her doctors that these are just hallucinations, Jian can't help but scream as the orange spider begins to chew on her toes. Despite her brilliance, her wish to get back to work in Genetics, Jian is put under by her doctor's injections with the hope of finding a new combination of drugs which can bring her out of her own insanity.
No information is yet given for how Jian comes to work for the Genada Corporation.
En route to Genada
It is at this point that Jian meets P.J. Colding who, in the service of Genada, had the responsibility of smuggling Jian out of Shanghai. Colding achieves this feat by stowing and driving Jian for eight hours in the back of a truck, followed by another twenty hours in the cargo hold of a plane. Since her extradition, Jian has served as the key bioinformatics scientist and genome specialist for the Genada Corporation dedicated to creating the ancestor of all mammals.
The character’s full name is Liu Jiandan but she is commonly referred to, in short, by the name Jian. Her peer, Dr. Erika Hoel, makes no secret of her disdain for Jian and is known to use hurtful nicknames for Jian, one such nickname being the 'Cellulite Queen'.
In the novel Ancestor, Jian is described as being 52 years old, 167.64 cm (5 ft., 6 in.) tall and approximately 113 kgs (250 lbs). In the beginning of the novel, Jian has long, heavy, silky-black hair but during the course of the story Jian untidily cuts her own hair with a scalpel. Jian butchered her hair partially out of stress and partially because of convenience, as it often fell in her face while she worked. Jian’s favorite clothing was a Hawaiian shirt usually in bright, loud colors. Among her arsenal were shirts in the following color schemes: lime-green with yellow azaleas; hunter orange with bright red daises; dark blue with yellow flowers and orange train engines.
Jian is an intelligent and emotional woman. She is drawn to challenges as demonstrated by her response to Danté’s invitation to recreate a lost genome. However, she is naïve and prone to suggestion, intimidation and guilt.
While many of her contemporaries at the Chinese Academy of Sciences were encouraged to leave the Academy and start their own businesses, Jian was never made this offer. Her government considered her too brilliant to let her go. She acquiesced to this fate because she was, as described in the novel, “malleable”. Jian knew this about herself and despised it, but did not fight it. Jian also felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility because of her skills, and often put the needs of others before her own. She knew that should her countrymen come looking for her, that she could be in great danger. However, she never worried about being caught once she learned the magnitude of what she was accomplishing.
Characters in the books often remark that Jian posses a brilliance in bioinformatics beyond any other in the world. However, Jian’s incredible intelligence and skill does not equate to friendship but rather to isolation. She is fond of P.J. Colding and he is kind to her, although it is arguable that it is part of his job to be so. Within her immediate circle of colleagues she has no equal; no confidante; no partner.
On a more personal note, Jian was closest to P.J. Colding as she revered him for helping her escape from China. She sometimes thought of Colding as her only true friend and was genuinely attracted to him, although she never acted on this impulse because she considered herself to old and undesirable. However, she did want to see Colding happy and upon recognizing his attraction to Sara Purinam Jian suggests to him that he should date Sara
Jian also exhibits a few peculiarities. She is particularly fond of the carbonated drink, Dr. Pepper. She is described as having a tingling sensation in her toes when she feels as if she is on the verge of something amazing. She also has premonitions about the evil nature of her creations well before there is any indication of such attributes.
Scientific Accomplishments and Skills
Jian is considered the world’s top bioinformatics scientist and is credited with the creation of a software program able to build full, custom chromosomes. The machine running her software program is affectionately termed The God Machine by her colleague Dr. Claus Rhumkorrf. In effect, The God Machine simulates an evolution lab inside a computer, where the program statistically analyzes entire genomes based on the probability of the function of each gene sequence. It is through this program that Jian is able to design the genome of a fast growing, roughly human sized animal able to provide tissue for xenotransplantation. A pivotal moment in Jian’s career occurs when she is able to make a breakthrough in the genome viability probability. This breakthrough was accomplished when she had the epiphany to substitute the missing genome attributes with bovine attributes.
It is said that when focused, she is capable of typing genetic DNA sequences by hand at a rate so fast that it is impossible to read as it is being entered.
As previously mentioned, Jian received her offer to work for Genada through an encrypted message from Danté Paglione himself. In her own description, the message, that took her a week to break, was so difficult she knew it was intended for her alone. It was so difficult, in fact, that in her estimation, no one else in China could have broken it.
Jian is also an expert at the game of chess, which she uses as a method of relaxing and forgetting the immense pressure on her achieving success in her genetic work. P.J. Colding also recognizes that, for Jian, playing chess is a productive distraction from the stress of her job and frequently encourages her to a challenge in order to help her decompress.
Jian speaks both Chinese and English
Differences between Versions
In the 2007 version of Ancestor, Jian's madness is described as being a side-effect of working on the Ancestor project whereas in the 2010 version she is scene to have mental difficulties from the beginning of the Novel even to the point that the Chinese government have been forced to incarcerate Jian for her own safety. Indeed in the 2007 version, Jian worked as a geneticist for a governmental agency named the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Her primary work for the government centered on the Chinese Human Genome project. While working on this government project, Jian receives an invitation from Danté Paglione in the form of an encrypted message. In the message, Danté offers Jian the chance to work on a project to recreate a long dead genome – an impossible but intriguing challenge.
- Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Sciences: The school where Jian was said to have studied.
- Official site for Dr. Pepper Jian's favorite beverage
- The God Machine Blog (Jian’s personal blog): Jian's blog was created as a tie-in to the April 1, 2007 release of Ancestor on Amazon.com. The blog was created by Scott Sigler, with posts written by P.G. Holyfield