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Bios Mass Market Paperback – November 15, 2000
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The story takes place in a realistic (but thankfully not over-described) future where Earth is trying to colonize environmentally hostile planets outside of the solar system. The planet Isis is the current target, a planet teaming with life but without any alien civilizations except the strange tool using "diggers," who seem more like animals. Isis is lethal to humans, since it is full of pathogens that kill with the slightest contact (I believe Wilson borrowed this idea from Stanley Weinbaum's classic 1930s story "Parasite Planet"). To the hostile world Isis comes Zoe Fisher, genetically engineered to survive the planet's environment -- but also containing a few surprises inside her as well that neither she nor her handlers are aware of. Soon, Zoe is caught in a political conflict between bickering Earth groups and facae her own emerging feelings toward one of her superiors. And, quite suddenly, it seems as if Isis itself is striking back at the colonial effort, trying to destroy it utterly. What is the secret of this bizarre planet, and what can it tell us and Zoe about the nature of life in the universe?
Zoe Fisher is one of the best heroines to appear in a modern science fiction novel, overcoming many of the clichés of the genre and emerging as an intriguing mystery. Reading about her discovering both of Isis and herself is the real heartbeat of the book, and her relationship with Tam is both realistic and deeply touching.
Wilson provides in-depth descriptions of the medical aspects of Isis and the mechanics of the colonization, but they're easily understandable and exciting reading to people (like me, for example) without a medical background. He never lets these details slow down the pace of the story, as many lesser science-fiction writers might, but uses them to prod on the character story into the growing suspense and action. The last half of the book is a desperate, action-filled rushed.
If you've enjoyed books by Michael Crichton and Robin Cook, but have never ventured into the more hardcore world of science fiction writing, "Bios" would be a good novel for you to start with, and will open up new worlds for you, not just Isis. And fans of science fiction who haven't yet read Wilson should rush out and get a copy of this now; he's one of the current great authors (and read his superb "Darwinia" as well).
I won't give away the ending but throughout I found myself deeply moved.