Blood Music by Greg Bear
Vergil I. Ulum works for a biotech company in Southern California. He is a genius research scientist. He is also following his own research rather than the company’s prescribed direction. They warn him his current experiment needs to be destroyed and he needs to return to their original focus. There are dangerous implications and hazards in his current work that is not within their realm or expertise. When Vergil disobeys, keeps, and tries to hide his work, they fire him.
Vergil’s last act is to inject himself with his new intelligent lymphocytes into his own body. There he feels he can contain them until he can get a new position in another lab. He doesn’t take into account that his original company has put out the word and he is blackballed from all the other local genetic and enzyme biotech companies in the area. This is the area where most of them are located, so he is fairly well kept out of any company in his field.
What Vergil slowly begins to realize is that the lymphocites are working within him. His eyesight improves. His body turns from a indoors nerd type body into an athletic one. His tastes change. He no longer can eat his favorite junk pizza, and instead craves healthy food. He is in awe of what they are doing. When they cross over into his brain…
Although this story won a Hugo award for Science Fiction writing in the mid-1980’s, it is extremely topical as genetic research is in all the headlines. The first few chapters pulled me in. About half way through the story weakens. Now the lymphocytes have pretty much taken over and are spreading. Another doctor scientist flies to Europe to be examined and isolated. North America has been taken over. As the new intelligence strengthens, the story tends to get muddled. We have characters come in half way through, survivors of the original conquest, who are dropped again, unresolved.
At the end of the book I felt that something was lacking. The Hugo Award was for the short story that comprises the beginning of this novel. It is definitely a deserved award. It is in the expansion of the story that the quality is lost. It is still a good book, but doesn’t hold its excellence all the way through. Still, it is a chilling possibility of biotech research.