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Darwin's Radio Mass Market Paperback – July 5, 2000
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From the Inside Flap
A 2000 HUGO AWARD NOMINEE
Ancient diseases encoded in the DNA of humans wait like sleeping dragons to wake and infect again--or so molecular biologist Kaye Lang believes. And now it looks as if her controversial theory is in fact chilling reality. For Christopher Dicken, a "virus hunter" at the Epidemic Intelligence Service, has pursued an elusive flu-like disease that strikes down expectant mothers and their offspring. Then a major discovery high in the Alps --the preserved bodies of a prehistoric family--reveals a shocking link: something that has slept in our genes for millions of years is waking up.
Now, 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.
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The premise of Darwin's Radio really is a good one, but for me, the execution was somewhat flawed. First, the reader knows too much about the SHEVA virus before the primary point-of-view character's in the novel, leaving very little "thrill" to a book that is essentially a biological techno-thriller. For me, the first half of the book was a very technical look at the microbiology of diseases, retroviruses and phages...very clinical and dry. It isn't until 250 pages or so into the book before the brilliant scientists, biologists and virologists begin to catch on to the fact that SHEVA may not be a disease after all, and my general feeling at that point was "thanks for catching up, can we move along now?"
The second half of the book reads a bit fast, as a handful of scientists being to realize that SHEVA may not be just a terrible disease. The government task force assigned to deal with SHEVA takes a hard line toward authoritarianism, insisting that SHEVA carriers, especially expectant mothers and their children should be quarantined while a few former task force members quite or flee in an attempt to understand SHEVA outside the "party line." The 2nd half of the book is more readable and less like a biology textbook but I found the handful of point-of-view characters still being followed at this point over-emotional to the point of becoming annoying. Point-of-view characters ride a nearly non-stop roller coaster between giddy joy and boiling rage and I found myself thinking "these are not the people who would survive in a crisis."
In the end, Darwin's Radio almost reads like two books. The first delving deep in to modern biology and virology, the second an emotional (sometimes overly so) race-against-the-clock style thriller. The premise is good enough to make me want to read the follow up, Darwin's Children, with the hope that it will be a stronger execution of a good idea.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about where we came from and where we may be heading.
This is not an 'easy reading beach book' though, you have to really pay attention.
Greg puts the "hard" in "hard science fiction". Even with a glossary at the end defining basic terms in genetics, I had a hard time following this. I know nothing about genetics.
That being said, this was a great book. The premise is entirely plausible. There's suspense, action, and even a love interest.