Darwin's Radio Darwin's Radio
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All the best thrillers contain the solution to a mystery, and the mystery in this intellectually sparkling scientific thriller is more crucial and stranger than most. Why are people turning against their neighbors and their newborn children? And what is causing an epidemic of still births? A disgraced paleontologist and a genetic engineer both come across evidence of cover-ups in which the government is clearly up to no good. But no one knows what's really going on, and the government is covering up because that is what, in thrillers as in life, governments do. And what has any of this to do with the discovery of a Neanderthal family whose mummified faces show signs of a strange peeling?
Greg Bear has spent much of his recent career evoking awe in the deep reaches of space, but he made his name with Blood Music, a novel of nanotechnology that crackled with intelligence. His new book is a workout for the mind and a stunning read; human malignancy has its role in his thriller plot, but its real villain, as well as its last best hope, is the endless ingenious cruelty of the natural world and evolution. --Roz Kaveney, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Is evolution a gradual process, as Darwin believed, or can change occur suddenly, in an incredibly brief time span, as has been suggested by Stephen J. Gould and others? Bear (Dinosaur Summer and Foundation and Chaos) takes on one of the hottest topics in science today in this riveting, near-future thriller. Discredited anthropologist Mitch Rafelson has made an astonishing discovery in a recently uncovered ice cave in the AlpsAthe mummified remains of a Neanderthal couple and their newborn, strangely abnormal child. Kaye Lang, a molecular biologist specializing in retroviruses, has unearthed chilling evidence that so-called junk DNA may have a previously unguessed-at purpose in the scheme of life. Christopher Dicken, a virus hunter at the National Center for Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, is hot in pursuit of a mysterious illness, dubbed Herod's flu, which seems to strike only expectant mothers and their fetuses. Gradually, as the three scientists pool their results, it becomes clear that Homo sapiens is about to face its greatest crisis, a challenge that has slept within our genes since before the dawn of humankind. Bear is one of the modern masters of hard SF, and this story marks a return to the kind of cutting-edge speculation that made his Blood Music one of the genre's all-time classics. Centered on well-developed, highly believable figures who are working scientists and full-fledged human beings, this fine novel is sure to please anyone who appreciates literate, state-of-the-art SF. (Sept.) FYI: Bear has won two Hugos and four Nebulas.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
My search for new great authors and series led me to this book. The premise sounded exciting, and I was optimistic that I would have another huge body of work to read.
That optimism lasted until I was around 4 or 5 pages in. For an interesting story, I can overlook quite a lot, but the lack of craft in this novel is far too obvious. As stated above, it reads like a first attempt at a novel, and not a particularly successful one. The writing style is choppy; the descriptions vary from over-long and obvious to vague and lazy. Attempts at characterization are incredibly unsuccessful, with Bear leaning heavily on gender stereotypes and characters speaking exposition to each-other.
If you enjoy Harlequin romance novels or watching pornography for the story, then this book may be the right choice for you. Otherwise, I'd skip it.
The book does a very good job of giving the main characters proper attention. Each character is well defined and their complexities are explored. But, I have to say that the book may have went a little too far in this pursuit. I often found that I wanted more discussion of the attempts at studying and dealing with the virus, but instead much of the book focused on the personal lives of Kaye and Mitch. Although I must admit that the developments between them weren't completely immaterial, the description of the book on the back cover is rather misleading. I would hardly say that Kaye Lang and Christopher Dicken race to solve an evolutionary puzzle.
Despite the fact that the novel headed in a rather different direction than I had anticipated, it was fairly entertaining. The premise was really rather interesting and I liked the questions which were raised by the unfolding events. This novel really had much to do with human nature and questions concerning our own origins. Plus, I hadn't ever read a science fiction novel dealing with evolution so it was a nice change. Overall, I would say read this book if you're really interested. It may not be exactly what you expect, but that doesn't mean you won't like it.
Darwin's Radio is entertaining and thought-provoking. His homo sapiens novus, the new children whose genomes are shaped by the Sheva virus, are not the usual pat "advanced humans" you find in pulp sf, with big heads and telepathic abilities. They are more realistic than that, tho endowed with unusual abitities from the perspective of society as a whole. The novel in many respects goes beyond its genre, and would interest people not generally into science-fiction.
As the government reacts with political calculation and brutality to the Sheva children, more enlightened minds must find a way to convince the world to live in harmony with them. Read this book, then Darwin's Children. Bear has also talked about writing a third book in the group. A great job; in my opinion the two novels are his best work to date.
Now that I'm 33, and am amply aware that I don't know everything, I only paused briefly before picking up Darwin's Radio. (Actually, I grabbed it off the shelf and was reading the description on the back before I even saw the author - I regularly judge books by their covers, you see, and I liked the title and color of this one.) When I saw the author, I put it back, recalling my teenage distaste for his books. I told my husband that I didn't like his end of the world books and that I sure wasn't going to get *that* book, but when we went to check out, I had it in my hand.
I've just finished it. I didn't understand some of it, but my feeble brain managed to grasp most of it. Tenuously, but there was a grasp all the same. I had to think about some of what I was reading, really think on it, and it's been a very long time since I've read a book that did that. It felt good, as crazy as that sounds, and I'm looking forward to thinking more in the coming year.
For anyone who stays away from hard sci-fi yet reads Robin Cook novels, pick this up. My only regret was that I didn't read the short biological primer at the back of the book and I didn't make use of the glossary. (note to self: always look at the back of the book before reading.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I'm going to keep this review short. Just wanted to give a rating so that system is fair, meaning the ratings are not filled with all 5 star people telling you to buy it. Read morePublished on June 8 2004
Why you should read this:
If you like virus thrillers like Preston's The Hot Zone or Crichton's The Andromeda Strain then you will really like this book. Read more
Having loved scifi when young, I've become jaded over the years with the gendre. I guess it's because I love science, and so much of scifi strays pretty far from science and into... Read morePublished on May 28 2004 by Dennis S.
Hard science, not hard science - the point is it's fiction, and it's entertaining.
I think the book will be perceived as better when taken in conjunction with the sequel. Read more
This was my first Greg Bear book, and I had some mixed feelings about it.
First of all the premise of the book was excellent! I appreciated the fact that Mr. Read more
Not a scientist myself, I can't comment on whether what is discussed in this book is plausible scientifically. But as a fan of intelligent SF, this one is worth reading. Read morePublished on April 6 2004 by Jill Elaine Hughes
I must say, I was absolutely relishing reading this one because it sounded great. But be warned, if you know anything about retroviruses/retrotransposons, you will be sorely... Read morePublished on March 27 2004
It's an enjoyable read, but the science is definitely rubbery. Only humans have these evolutionary retroviruses? Wouldn't that provide absolute proof of the non-existence of God? Read morePublished on March 6 2004 by Dr. Carstairs