Better. “Coat of Many Colours” is pretty much a pure old-fashioned idea story, nicely done. In an ecologically devastated South America, Jurassic Park-like tech is being used to engineer “a better, cheaper burger machine” — a food animal that can thrive in the desertified Amazon basin. But, in Experiment 2308, they appear to have accidentally created an intelligent creature. The Australian protagonist, Mullen, is ostensibly brought in to prove that Experiment 2308 is not intelligent, so that she can be killed and eaten without qualm; and there follows much Egan-ish discussion of the nature of intelligence, but in a pleasingly sardonic key:
Mullen bent down close to the bars, looking into the unfathomable eyes.
“I hope you don’t imagine,” she said, “that I am any sort of white knight. I am a cognitive psychologist, and it is my job to torture animals that are on the wrong side of mankind’s current designated threshold of nervous complexity by cutting their nervous systems apart and watching what parts twitch. I’m not allowed to do it to monkeys any more in most countries, but sea slugs and squid are still fair game.”