This was an interesting blend of science information and government and politics. I found it to be an interesting reflection of the world today where scientific information is offered as justification for government policies or withheld for similar reasons. The characters came from different walks of life, scientists, scientists turned businessmen, American Indians. They were well drawn. A few were rather one-dimensional, but necessary. The main characters were more complex, and what was important to me, gained insight about themselves over the course of the story. I can recommend this book to readers of science fiction looking for something more than fantasy.
Have never read Greg Bear before, but gave him a try due to his reputation as being one of the best modern sci-fi writers. Maybe this wasn't his best work; I found it equivalent to a Robin Cook "outbreak" thriller (which, ironically, Bear makes reference to in the book- funny!). Entertaining nonetheless, and definitely set up as a serial novel. Falls victim to the "we just discovered, isolated, and mapped the entire genome of a new virus in less than 6 months!" fantasy trap. What I found more interesting was Bear's descriptions of the politics and business aspect that drive pharmaceutical companies.
This book is quality science-fiction dealing with evolution of the human species. It is well writen and contains a significant amount of current scientific knowledge in addition to fantastic extrapolations.