Darwin's Radio



[Reading] ➽ Darwin's Radio By Greg Bear – E17streets4all.co.uk Molecular biologist Kaye Lang's theorythat ancient diseases encoded in the DNA of humans can return to lifehas become a chilling reality The shocking evidence: a virushunter has tracked down a flulike Molecular biologist Kaye Lang's theorythat ancient diseases encoded in the DNA of humans can return to lifehas become a chilling reality The shocking evidence: a virushunter has tracked down a flulike disease that kills expectant mothers and their offspring.Darwin's Radio

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Darwin's Radio PDF/EPUB ò Paperback
  • Paperback
  • 448 pages
  • Darwin's Radio
  • Greg Bear
  • English
  • 14 November 2018
  • 9780345459817

10 thoughts on “Darwin's Radio

  1. says:

    So I keep on reading Bear novels, feeling disappointed, waiting a while, then rinse and repeat.

    This time I've clarified why I am so ambivalent about this guy: he has fascinating ideas then writes dull books about them. The premise here is an extreme example. Our junk DNA turns out to be a collection of emergency rapid-response evolutionary accelerators - and the emergency response has just been triggered. Cue mysterious pregnancies, peculiar facial mutations and a really big scientific mystery that turns very political very fast. The detail is very convincing - Bear did a heap of research.

    But here's the problem: almost every event of a dramatic nature happens off-stage and the middle part of the book, between the initial scientific drama and the political nightmare at the end bogs down severely. (view spoiler)[Then, to add insult to injury, the book closes before the new generation of evolved humans reaches their teens, so the social consequences are not fully explored (but there is a sequel). It looks like things are heading into X-Men territory, but of course more seriously treated, or, more precisely, in the vein of Nancy Kress's Sleepless books. (hide spoiler)]

  2. says:

    The first time I read this I felt horrified and dazed for weeks. I still consider this a masterpiece of horror/sci-fi. The characters are somewhat memorable, but more memorable is their pain; indeed, the pain of the whole world was felt in the back of my mouth, preparing it rise up from my stomach, up the pipe, out the maw, to hang onto my lip and smack me thrice on my face, wink, and then jump off to slither under the door-jam and horrify someone else.

    Don't get me wrong, this is a pure sci-fi novel, but no sci-fi affects me as much as the types that are just as facile in other genres. This one does and gleefully so. I may not know that much about biology, or enough to tear Bear apart, but I followed his arguments and treatment and was amazed at the way he pulled a rabbit out of the junk DNA.

    I've been a fan of Greg Bear's work for many years, and I thought I had really loved works like Eon and Legacy, and then I was amazed by Queen of Angels and then I was jumping up and down with Moving Mars. His short story collection of Tangents still makes me sit in awe. Still, all of these books paled in comparison with Darwin's Radio.

    I have to say one thing: I cried uncontrollable tears at no less than three times during this novel. I cannot give higher praise.

  3. says:



    I did not enjoy this book in the slightest.

    I probably should have seen it coming, what with the very first sentence of the very first chapter likening the color of the sky backdrop of the alps to 'a dog's pale crazy eye'. Even when, on the very next page, Bear described a frozen waterfall as 'a gnome's upside-down castle' I thought oh, this won't be so bad.

    I was wrong. Dead wrong.

    First, let's talk about geek talk. I'm a big fan of Michael Crichton, and as such I expect a book's geek talk to be nicely interwoven into the regular dialog and not be too over the top for me, as a non-scientist, to handle. An author needs to be very talented to accomplish this, and he must also be able to understand the importance of dumbing it down a notch (but not too much!) and definitely not going on for pages upon pages.

    Which is what Bear does. He just won't stop. I ended up skimming the sections where the geek talk occurred because it was simply that boring.

    It should also be pointed out that Bear actually namedrops Michael Crichton in the middle of the book. Only, instead of handling it with class Crichton's cast as a celebrity spokesperson for the Evil Corporation who wants to kill babies. Nice.

    Then there's the offensive bits.

    First, we're informed that if you study Science you too can be rid of your silly belief in God! A few premed courses will leave you happily content and 'dubious of' your 'religious upbringing' (page 390). Lovely.

    Following that, there's a scene where someone compares being forced to sign up for a national database to the persecution of the Jews during WWII. It came off as really tasteless, and I definitely reacted to it, but I figured that maybe it was just a case of bad wording?

    Then came this:

    They stared at me in the market, Kaye said. I felt like a leper. Worse, like a nigger. (page 516)
    WHAT IN THE WORLD?! With the deliberate emphasis and everything! My face went all D: because HOLY HELL you did not just state that being black is worse than having a chronic disease which can cause permanent damage to your face and make your limbs turn numb and/or diseased!

    Then comes the blow to my taste as a reader, because the last fifty pages of the book is all about Kaye and her mutant baby pregnancy and the birth of said mutant child, who they name Stella Nova because Stella and Nova both mean ~star~.

    Oh, and yeah, the baby can speak from birth, is telepathic, is the most beautiful thing ever and has pretty spots of colors on her cheeks and in her eyes that can change color like so:
    Stella Nova sent waves of fawn and gold over her cheeks... (page 505)
    Also, she grows and develops with super human speed. I felt like I was reading Twilight .

    I could mention the blandness of the stereotypical main female character (who's trapped in a man's world and cries a lot) and the boring main male lead, but I figure that's a given.

  4. says:

    An excellent idea sadly marred by poor writing, the impression is that Greg Bear came up with a great idea for a novel, researched it and then decided to tell everyone look at what I have learned.
    The main problem is the there is a distinct clumpiness to the story a few pages of story followed by look at what I learned today, a rushed ending just as the book begins to take shape.

    It borderlines on being turgid. If we look at Andy Weir's The Martian, which is undeniably a well written novel, it contains a excellent balance of science and storytelling that makes the book a pleasure to read in quiet an addictive way.

    this book became so leaden in the middle that I took time out and read Weird Things Customers Say In Book Shops by Jen Campell and Fifty Sheds of Grey By C. T. Grey for some light relief and begun reading How The French Won Waterloo (Or Think They Did) by Stephen Clarke.

    NO this book does not inspire me to read the sequel, Darwin's Children or any of his other work, in fact this was purchased in 1999 and now I think perhaps it should have been left on the shelf for another seventeen years.

  5. says:

    An interesting look at what might possibly be the next stage of evolution. Greg Bear's Hugo nominee is a wonderful mix of scientific and political thriller as well as a study of human reactions and relationships. Beautifully laid out and written in an interesting manner.

    After I finished this book I sat back and thought, my god, I know all about viruses and diseases and retroviruses now. Greg Bear does not dumb down the science to make sure his audience gets it, instead he explains everything several times in innovative ways to make sure the reader comprehends the importance of his storyline. The science in this book is complex and believable, compelling and worthy. While I am generally a physics and chemistry lover, the biology and molecular sciences portrayed in Darwin's Radio excited me. These aren't the same biology principles I was bored with in high school, these are full out edges of possibility, dangerous and life-changing sciences.

    The principle behind this book is that subspeciation and thus, evolution, is actually a function of biologically engineered retroviruses- retroviruses with networks to tell when a mutation is working and when one is failing. While it is generally speculative science, it is very grounded in modern principles which are explained throughout the novel as well as in a primer at the end.

    Well worth a read! This scifi book breaks the boundaries of simple outbreak thriller into the bounds of political intrigue and romance.

    (I started rereading this, but couldn't bring myself to finish it for some reason. There is an obvious change in narrative about 4/5th of the way through the book that really jarred me, where they start a road trip and it switches from science-driven narrative to meandering emotion-based drama. I just wasn't in the mood for that, but I still think overall this book is a winner.)

  6. says:

    3.5 stars. Excellent concept and great science highlight this very good hard SF story.

    Winner: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
    Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
    Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
    Nominee: John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel

  7. says:

    Let's hark back to the halcyon early 2000s, when Bill Cosby might have starred in a PSA about a disease outbreak intended to calm the frightened public, when the scientific community might have accepted that an ancient virus was the evolutionary catalyst for Homo sapiens to subspeciate from Homo neanderthalensis in one generation, before we got a better handle on how screwed up the hominid family tree really is.

    I read the sequel Darwin's Children about a decade ago and only recently realized I completely missed out on the first book in the series. In my admittedly foggy recollection, the sequel was a more enjoyable read which I zipped through within a couple days. As for Darwin's Radio, this is an imaginative, sweeping technothriller epic with a cast of fascinating characters and exhaustively researched, brilliant (if outdated) plot. So why was it such a slow, plodding experience compared to the sequel?

    I'd say this one is simply a bit too long. There are a few chapters that get bogged down in trivial details or irrelevant background scenes that felt like the perfect spot to put the book down for a while. Barring these slow sections, the narrative flows like more of a page-turner, though there is also a disconnect with some unexplained fantasy mysticism grafted on top of meticulously researched hard science.

    As one tends to find in thrillers featuring global disasters, the action cuts between the POV scenes of various scientists and government officials in order to maintain suspenseful pacing. Kaye Lang is a brilliant molecular biologist caring for a mentally ill husband while researching endogenous retroviruses (ancient diseases encoded in our own DNA). Mitch Rafelson is the maverick pariah of anthropologists, discredited for stealing prehistoric remains from a Native American tribe. And Christopher Dicken is a lonely, driven virus hunter at the CDC, investigating the pathogen responsible for Herod's Flu, a mysterious epidemic causing miscarriages in pregnant women around the world.

    Kaye's paper predicting the very sort of dormant retrovirus linked to the epidemic puts her in the spotlight. Public hysteria reaches a fever pitch as an entire generation of babies is in peril. (This is where Bill Cosby enters the picture.)

    Mitch discovers the mummified remains of a Neanderthal couple with symptoms of Herod's Flu who appear to be the parents of a modern human fetus. He is convinced these mummies can prove this is not a disease, but the next step in human evolution. Unfortunately, he gets locked out of his own discovery and shunned by the scientific community.

    One section of the book that needed trimming is a protracted climb in the Alps where Mitch searches for the Neanderthal cave while navigating a love triangle with mountaineers Tilde and Franco. This was an interminably tedious account of every single step and foothold while climbing a mountain, peppered with lots of mountaineer jargon for every imaginable type of geological formation and equipment. Either Greg Bear is an expert mountaineer, or he researches like a demon. Maybe this part was like porn for readers who are pro mountain climbers, but as a layperson I was bored to tears and ready to gouge my eyes out.

    As you might expect, the storylines of Kaye, Mitch and Christopher collide in a huge revelation and it appears the fate of humanity lies in the hands of our protagonists. Overall it's an enjoyable read, but in hindsight I wish I had skimmed some of the sluggish sections.

  8. says:

    As warned by a friend, the ideas here are pretty fascinating -- the book might be fifteen years behind in terms of science, but there's nothing inherently ridiculous about the idea based on the scientific knowledge of the time -- but the actual narrative is pretty deadly boring. Some of the writing is just... why would you let that slip past, editor? Hard SF isn't just about the cool ideas: there has to be some element of execution there as well, or there's no point in writing it as a novel -- there'd be a non-fiction audience for speculation about the future too, undoubtedly.

    It's pretty unfortunate, since Bear did the work here in setting up the world, figuring out the details, making A lead to B without a gap in logic. Unfortunately, the prose is flat, most of the characters likewise, and isn't there a song with lyrics that go I don't care a lot? Because it's in my head right now.

  9. says:

    The first 200 pages or so of this book are incredibly engaging and interesting. I wasn't put off by the science talk, though there was too much of it -someone who truly understood it would probably find a lot of holes in it, and someone who didn't get it beyond the basics didn't really need to read so extensively about it- but after the first half, the book starts taking a plunge south. I stopped caring about the characters at some point in the middle, the female lead turning into quite a trope by the the end, the ending was completely unsatisfying and left a bunch of story lines hanging, plot holes and rambling side stories that never saw any closure. It was like Bear got tired of writing the story and just wanted to finish it, so he glossed over a lot of the things he had so carefully set.

    The sad part is that the concept is great and the human side of the thriller is very compelling, but once you start noticing the vices in the story, it kind of goes downhill from there.

    Total clothes fetish, by the way. What it is with describing every piece of garment??

  10. says:

    I really liked this book. The author obviously researched the subject matter thoroughly, and there was a good balance of science and engaging plot line. I found it to be an easy and fun read, and I will definitely be reading more books by this author in the future.

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