Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear

 

Science Fiction

Darwin's radio Darwin’s RadioGreg Bear; Ballantine Pub. Group 2000WorldCatKaye Lange is a microbiologist who studies the human genome and hidden diseases. She has speculated in a number of scientific papers that there are diseases hidden in DNA that only appear when certain environmental factors or levels are reached. Christopher Dicken is a researcher for the CDC, doing field work on diseases discovered throughout the world. Mitch Rafelson is a blacklisted archeologist. He is led to some unusual ancient humans found frozen in a cave in the Alps.

These three people soon will find their paths tangled together. A new disease is cropping up around the world. It has been hidden in many countries for up to 40 or 50 years, but has been more frequent in the past decade or two. It affects women of child bearing age. If they have the disease during a pregnancy, they will lose the baby. They stranger part is that they become pregnant again within a month or so, whether they’ve had contact with a man or not. The second pregnancy also ends in death.

The CDC is trying to discover a cause and cure. Lange is trying to determine what is happening within the DNA to bring about the changes she is seeing. Dicken believes the illness cannot be cured in any conventional method, and may not be a curable disease. Rafelson is doing some different probing and coming to a like conclusion from a different angle. When the three of them get together, they foresee a cataclysmic event happening to mankind.

Darwin’s Radio is a riveting novel of gene and DNA research and evolution. Bear’s science is well grounded in current knowledge of the area. His speculations can arise from theories now being examined in genetic research. The science is presented well in everyday terms for those of us who aren’t molecular scientists. The story moves along well, with twists continuing when least expected.

As I often find in Bear’s work, Darwin’s Radio tends to fall flat at the ending. He tells this marvelous story, then doesn’t know what to do next. The protagonists now have to go on the run from the government. The ending is vague and unsatisfying. It also is obviously set up for a sequel, which has since been published. Despite that, this is a must read for any hard science fiction fan. Those of us who seek out all levels of speculative fiction will want to read this too. Man’s future may not be as easy as we think.

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