View on Amazon.com.
by Greg Bear
Published 2000 (544 pages)
Tagged as Evolution (2).
This book picked for the December 2011 meetings.
Added by Tom Erickson on October 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM
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"Virus hunter" Christopher Dicken is a man on a mission, following a trail of rumors, government cover-ups, and dead bodies around the globe in search of a mysterious disease that strikes only pregnant women and invariably results in miscarriage. But when Dicken finds what he's looking for, the answer proves to be stranger--and far deadlier--than he ever could have imagined. Something that has slept in human DNA for millions of years is waking up.Molecular biologist Kaye Lang has spent her career tracing ancient retroviruses in the human genome. She believes these microscopic fossils can come to life again. But when Dicken's discovery becomes public, Lang's theory suddenly turns to chilling fact. As the outbreak of this terrifying disease threatens to become a deadly epidemic, Dicken and Lang must race against time to assemble the pieces of a puzzle only they are equipped to solve--an evolutionary puzzle that will determine the future of the human race . . . if a future exists at all.
Overall the book club found the Darwin's Radio okay, but not great. Dan felt that Bear had written a "Mary Sue" character in Kay Lang. Everyone in the club felt that the storyline had a lot of frayed edges and trails that didn't have any clear conclusion and didn't add a lot to the book. There were a lot of differing opinions on the end of the book. John felt that the science of natural selection was thrown out the window. Jamie thought that the book was written like a movie and wondered if the movie rights had been sold yet.
To expand on the questions about the science: the book had a lot of very fun ideas to discuss about what all that extra genome is for. I'm happy to even suspend disbelief and imagine what would it be like if the genome could suddenly induce dramatic change, perhaps helping to explain the apparent burstiness of evolution (across hundreds of thousands of years, but still). But then to have the main character certain that *her* baby was going to be the one perfect character, and then to have a little burst of these perfect characters all show up simultaneously was both unnecessary and annoying. After all, if evolution could burst into perfect little improvements any time it wanted, what would its motivation be to wait? The challenge is that during periods of rapid change *most* of the changes are going to fail. Over time -- let's at least have 10s of years if we can't have 100Ks of years! -- perhaps the rapid change would pay off.
I suppose part of the challenge is trying to make a novel hang together in the life times of the characters. I'm willing to forgive a lot for that goal, but making magic out of the genome was too annoying.
The reactions weren't all negative and the club overall was happy to have read the book. Everyone agreed that it spurred a lively discussion and the discussion reflected positively on the book.