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In the distant future, nanotechnology has gotten out of control. The inner solar system has been overrun by Mycora, atom-size machines that devour everything they touch. Humanity has long since fled Earth for the cold reaches of the outer system, where the lack of heat and sunlight make it difficult--but not impossible--for the Mycora to bloom. Life in the Immunity is hard, and the survivors of humanity face the constant onslaught of the ever-evolving Mycora. But if they are to survive, the remaining humans must try to learn what happened to Earth, and whether the Mycora are finding ways to overcome their susceptibility to cold. When the Immunity mounts an expedition to plant probes on Earth's polar caps, shoemaker and aspiring journalist John Stasheim is asked to come along to chronicle the journey. He soon learns that the trip will be fraught with as many political dangers as nanotech ones, and that the Mycora are both more and less than they seem. An excellent SF novel along the lines of Greg Bear's Blood Music, but with more action and plot. Wil McCarthy is a writer to watch. --Craig E. Engler
From Publishers Weekly
Although set in the 22nd century, this transcendent tale of close encounters with awesome life forms echoes current anxieties over the godlike manipulations of bioengineering. Following the total engulfment of Earth and the planets of the inner solar system by mycora, a manmade species of self-replicating fungus that has developed a ravenous appetite for inorganic matter, the remnants of the human race have fled to the moons of Jupiter. Loosely organized as the Immunity, they keep a watchful eye on the encroaching Mycosystem and stamp out the horrific "blooms" by which the technogenic spores literally eat their way into a territory. The Immunity's goal is to relocate to a cleaner planetary system, but not without first investigating transmissions that improbably suggest human life may still exist on Earth. This provokes acts of sabotage by the Temples of Transcendent Evolution, who revere the Mycosystem as "some sort of hyperintelligence, maybe a direct link to God himself," and fear that the mission's covert objective is "deicide." McCarthy (Murder in the Solid State) relates the challenging clash of technology and theory that follows through the experiences of John Strasheim, a freelance journalist onboard the Earth-bound starship Louis Pasteur. The writing is vivid?particularly in sequences that describe the chaos of bloom alerts?but it's also challenging: technojargon casually spoken by the Pasteur-nauts can be so stultifying that it gives the events and people described the dispassionate feel of a virtual reality simulation. Readers who can plug into the prose and navigate its dense circuity, however, will find themselves rewarded with a wallop of a finale that satisfies high expectations for high-concept SF. Agent, Shawna McCarthy. Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
If you want to lose yourself in a fictional future experience, and become engrossed in a novel that you just cannot put down, this book is the right one for you. The author weaves a tale of intrigue and danger as he takes you on this futuristic adventure where surviving colonists from Earth who settled on Jupiter's moons fight to defeat the deadly 'bloom'. It's also a great experience for everyone who enjoys futuristic tales that stretch the imagination into possible futuristic adventures. You'll certainly enjoy this one!
The mycora a nanoscale biological/technological device created in the mid twentieth century has gotten completely out of control. endlessly mutating, endlessly evolving, and endlessly ravenous the have taken over the entire inner solar system from mercury to Mars. Humanity (the less than 2 million that escaped earth) is now forced to inhabit the asteriod belt (Gladholds) and the Jovian moons in the area of space known as the Immunity where they have created macrophages capable of digesting the myvora. Blooms or a group of mycora that have gotten into the habitable moons are frequent and kill nearly twenty people a month. On a mission the explore the mycosystem (inner solar system) a group a scientists aboard the Loius Pasteur are sent to earth and mars to place detectors to tell the Jovian moons when the mysore have adapted to the the cold of the outer system. This mission is wrought with sabotage and disaster. A good book from one of the great science fiction writers. It illustrates how unknown biological technology can quickly become dangerous and out of control. If you like nanotechnology this is a must read.
I've read this book once a year for over a decade. It has fantastic atmosphere and tension, an amazing story with fascinating ideas, and a style as creative and memorable as anything in the genre. It is in every way a masterpiece.
Sometime in the mid-twenty-first century, a nanotechnology accident of unknown origin devours Earth and then the moon. The end result, the Mycosystem, is a growing rot feeding on any organic and inorganic material it encounters. Like its fungal namesake, it spreads by spores. Riding on the solar wind, these spores cause "blooms" when they enter the human habitats inside Ganymede, Callisto and assorted asteroids. For twenty years, man has survived by developing elaborate "immune systems" to fight the blooms. However, recent blooms show an alarming sophistication and ability to skirt these countermeasures. Armored against "technogenic life", the spaceship Louis Pasteur departs for the depths of the Mycosystem, Earth and Mars. Its mission is to determine whether the Mycosystem has developed the ability to inhabit new niches in the Solar System. Documenting the mission is John Strasheim, a former cobbler given the chance to practice his talents as an amateur journalist. But, shortly after the mission is underway, evidence comes forth that humans still exist in the Mycosystem -- and that someone wants the mission to fail. This book has a lot to like. McCarthy tells a taut, hard science story. His nanotechnology is not magic. Indeed, he shows various ways -- ph balances, chemicals, too much and too little energy -- the "gray goo" type of nanotechnology accident could be contained. He also delves into ideas of complex systems, their emergent properties, and the implications of using evolutionary design to combat the Mycosystem and understand it. McCarthy also does a very good job with the characterization of narrator Strasheim as he learns new truths about the Mycosystem and confronts the possibility of a violent death. The captain of the Louis Pasteur is also a memorable character, a man so lacking in a sense of humor that he literally has one surgically implanted. My only complaint with the novel is that McCarthy doesn't bring to life the other crew members of the Pasteur except for Renata Baucum, a Mycosystem specialist antagonistic to Strasheim. McCarthy keeps his scientific and political mystery brief and fast moving. While the revelations of the Mycosystem's nature are not totally unexpected, McCarthy brings in enough interesting detail and ambiguity to make it interesting.