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.
Science fiction is supposed to be based on science. Greg Bear uses scientific knowledge about the genome fairly well up to the point where "Darwin's radio" comes into play - which is the notion that a stem cell genome can sense the viability of genomic rearrangements already out there and make a new and appropriately improved rearrangement. Added to that, cardboard characterizations make this a major waste of time. Two points for giving a reasonably accurate picture of the politics and bureaucracy of science - but by the end of the book, who cares?
What if evolution happens not just via random mutations, but quickly, on a species level, to deal with perceived threats to the human race? If so many of our problems today are due to a lack of ability to communicate with each other effectively, what would that next step in human evolution look like?
A fast-paced, page-turning sci-fi/medical thriller, with an acknowledged nod to Robin Cook's "Outbreak." However, the interesting (although improbable) scientific ideas in the book lift it above the run-of the-mill bestseller.
An unusual discovery is made - two Neandertal mummies, with a seemingly normal, Homo Sapiens infant. Is the child theirs?
Meanwhile, a new transmissible retrovirus is discovered - although it might seem to be nothing more than a cold, one of its side effects in pregnant women seems to be miscarriage. Mitch - an anthropological archaeologist with a dubious reputation, and Kaye, a rising star in the field of genetics, are brought together by an unexpected correlation between the ancient discovery and the modern virus. What seems to be a disease may not be that at all - but a major jump in the evolution of the species.
This book reminded me a lot of one of Robin Cook's medical "Outbreak" novels with maybe some Michael Crichton thrown in. While I liked the overall premise of the story about expedited evolution and I also liked the main characters Kaye and Mitch, I thought the novel contained too much scientific jargon and could have been edited quite a bit. Some of the story seemed to be very repetitive and it sometimes lost my interest. I also thought the NIH and CDC characters were somewhat clichéd and uninteresting. But the book did throw out some very interesting ideas and was very thought-provoking. The reaction of society to SHEVA and it's possible consequences also seemed to be sadly on the money. I'm not sure how accurate the science in the book is so I can't really comment on that. I also thought the ending was rather abrupt and left a lot hanging. I know there is a sequel to this book, but I'm not sure I would want to continue the story. I did recently read Greg Bear's "Blood Music" which I thought was much more compelling and interesting. I would still give "Darwin's Radio" a mild recommendation mainly for the interesting concept.
Hated this book. Slick best-seller soulless prose, laughable characters, reactionary scare-mongering. Obviously did a lot of research and went to great efforts to get the scientific trivia correct, but the main premise was so insanely impossible that I couldn't take the plot seriously. It blantently went against every scrap of what's know about genetic potential. If you're going to talk to a whole bunch of geneticists to research your backstory (and I presume he did) why not write about a REAL potential disaster rather than this sensationalized crap?
A mass grave in Russia that conceals the mummified remains of two women, both with child -- and the conspiracy to keep it secret.a major discovery high in the Alps: the preserved bodies of a prehistoric family -- the newborn infant possessing disturbing characteristics.a mysterious disease that strikes pregnant women, resulting in miscarriage. Three disparate facts that will converge into one science-shattering truth.
Molecular biologist Kaye Lang, a specialist in retroviruses, believe that ancient diseases encoded in the DNA of humans can again come to life. But her theory soon becomes chilling reality. For Christopher Dicken -- a "virus hunter" at the Epidemic Intelligence Service -- has pursued an elusive flu-like disease that strikes down expectant mothers and their offspring. The shocking link: something that has slept in our genes for millions of years is waking up.
Excellent book. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the sequel Darwin's Children!
Pretty awesome book... Kept me captivated until the last 80 or so pages when the plot started to fizzle. Ended up laughing at the end, which was sad considering how fascinating the book was up to that point. I would definitely recommend this book for a great perspective on evolution and how the US would respond to a major bioterror threat/plague, but just don't expect the end to be as deep or convincing as the beginning.
Fantastic read. A bit heavy on the pathology if you don't have a back ground in biology but other wise a fantastic read. It does keep you turning pages and eager for the next book which is also well worth the read... Love them both
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 Alps: the 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.
Stuffed full of technical jargon about DNA, RNA, retroviruses and more, it still manages to be a riveting novel about what might happen in the short term if human evolution suddenly takes off. I like how Bear thinks about the politics of the situation and the companies that want to profit from it.