Sunday, January 27, 2008

Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear

I picked up Darwin's Radio for my husband to read. I know he liked other Greg Bear books. He finished it, told me a bit about the plot, then told me I probably wouldn't like it very well. In fact, the plot sounded very interesting, so I decided to read it anyway. When I got done, I asked him to explain why he felt the book fell short. As someone who has read a ton of science fiction, he felt that the last third of the book was terribly cliché, and had lost it's originality. I don't know that I agree.
Darwin's Radio is a very stereotypical science fiction book in the fact that it relies heavily on modern day science and takes it one step further to create an interesting, but terrifying futuristic scenario. In Bear's case, he examined how people evolve and combined evolutionary theory with current day fears about deadly viruses. The story revolves around a few key scientists who have discovered that women are having miscarriages followed by unexpected pregnancies one month later. The non-traditionalists see the pregnancies as the newest leap forward in evolution while the traditionalists believe that a virus along the lines of AIDS and Ebola has begun that will destroy the human race if a cure is not found.
Much of the story analyzes the political repercussions of a society-wide disease. The President, the Vice-President, and the Surgeon General all make appearances as scientists concur with them about what can and should be done to quarantine the effects of the change. The one personal story is that of Kaye Lang a biologist, who is among the first to recognize that the shift is not a disease but an evolutionary leap.
Darwin's Radio reminds me of other medical science fiction like Robin Cook's Outbreak or P.D. James' futuristic Children of Men. There is a lot of heavy science discussion - and the glossary in the back is not going to help a reader discern the meaning of RNA and DNA transfiguration. And there is definitely a commentary on contemporary society. Overall, the book made me think which is always refreshing. However, I will say, I have had some strange nightmares the past few nights since finishing the story about miscarriages and sick children.

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