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Darwin's Radio Mass Market Paperback – July 5, 2000

3.6 out of 5 stars 344 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

All the best thrillers contain the solution to a mystery, and the mystery in this intellectually sparkling scientific thriller is more crucial and stranger than most. Why are people turning against their neighbors and their newborn children? And what is causing an epidemic of still births? A disgraced paleontologist and a genetic engineer both come across evidence of cover-ups in which the government is clearly up to no good. But no one knows what's really going on, and the government is covering up because that is what, in thrillers as in life, governments do. And what has any of this to do with the discovery of a Neanderthal family whose mummified faces show signs of a strange peeling?

Greg Bear has spent much of his recent career evoking awe in the deep reaches of space, but he made his name with Blood Music, a novel of nanotechnology that crackled with intelligence. His new book is a workout for the mind and a stunning read; human malignancy has its role in his thriller plot, but its real villain, as well as its last best hope, is the endless ingenious cruelty of the natural world and evolution. --Roz Kaveney, Amazon.co.uk

From Publishers Weekly

Is evolution a gradual process, as Darwin believed, or can change occur suddenly, in an incredibly brief time span, as has been suggested by Stephen J. Gould and others? Bear (Dinosaur Summer and Foundation and Chaos) takes on one of the hottest topics in science today in this riveting, near-future thriller. Discredited anthropologist Mitch Rafelson has made an astonishing discovery in a recently uncovered ice cave in the AlpsAthe mummified remains of a Neanderthal couple and their newborn, strangely abnormal child. Kaye Lang, a molecular biologist specializing in retroviruses, has unearthed chilling evidence that so-called junk DNA may have a previously unguessed-at purpose in the scheme of life. Christopher Dicken, a virus hunter at the National Center for Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, is hot in pursuit of a mysterious illness, dubbed Herod's flu, which seems to strike only expectant mothers and their fetuses. Gradually, as the three scientists pool their results, it becomes clear that Homo sapiens is about to face its greatest crisis, a challenge that has slept within our genes since before the dawn of humankind. Bear is one of the modern masters of hard SF, and this story marks a return to the kind of cutting-edge speculation that made his Blood Music one of the genre's all-time classics. Centered on well-developed, highly believable figures who are working scientists and full-fledged human beings, this fine novel is sure to please anyone who appreciates literate, state-of-the-art SF. (Sept.) FYI: Bear has won two Hugos and four Nebulas.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780345435248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345435248
  • ASIN: 0345435249
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (344 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Hubbard on April 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This was the first novel I read by Greg Bear and, overall, I am rather disappointed. The science behind the disease which gives the book its title is fascinating and lies within that intriguing realm of sci-fi which leaves you wondering where the real science has ended and the extrapolation begun. However, what made Darwin's Radio a disappointing read for me was not the heavy handed ecological and epidemiological jargon (some of which clearly could have been excluded), but the poor characterization, tiresome CDC and NIH politics and ultimately unsatisfying conclusion.
I found myself trudging through pages of "intrigue" between the factions of various government agencies which really could not have been more dull. Perhaps this sort of thing would be more palatable to others who are more interested in politics.
The characterization starts off strong but ultimately sinks into cliche, with one character (Mark Augustine) metamorphosing into a cartoonish evil scientist of monstrous proportions and another vanishing almost completely (Christopher Dicken). The main characters, Kaye and Mitch, who are initially presented as brilliant and dedicated (if somewhat troubled) scientists, abandon science altogether in order to solve the mystery of SHEVA by basically experimenting on their own bodies with nothing more than faith as their guide. Further, their romance is ludicrously two dimensional and peppered with such cringe-inducing dialogue as, "Mitch, be my man." Blech.
The conclusion of the novel is incredibly abrupt and leaves so many facets of a very complex story unresolved I found myself thumbing through the dictionary at the back thinking perhaps the rest of the ending was hidden behind it. Alas, it was not.
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Format: Hardcover
I have allways held a strange opinion about Greg Bear. I thought him to be a quite a good writer, but I simply haven't read anything by him I loved. I read a few short stories, and 'Foundation and Chaos', and they were all good, but nothing to addict me.
Alas, neither was "'Darwin's Radio"
But don't let that stop you. Darwin's Radio is certainly worth reading.
I'll start with what I didn't like. The characters, while all different, didn't seem all that interesting. The only one I really cared about was Christopher, and to a lesser extent Saul. They were different and came alive. Bear spent alot of time about the rest of the characters, especially Kaye and Mitch, but I never cared for them, or for the romance.
The other main complain, is that there really isn't too much of a plot. The book is marked as a Techno thriler, but there really isn't any action or advature. The characters are more or less passive spectators, watching Sheva, speculating about it, and trying to survive the catastrophes the world throws at them. In a sense, there's no story here.
OK. Then why should you read the book? Simply, because the ideas behind it are mind blowing, and well explained. Yeah, sometimes I was lost in the science, but I truly enjoyed Bear's scientific imagination. Bear does something that science fiction rarely does - he expands scientific ideas, and he should be commanded for that. Also, the book deserve notice for Bear's ability to make the scientific method, and the scientists, not only comprehensible but also fascinating. The tensest moments of the novel are scientifical exchanges of ideas and theories. At its best, you read with wide eyes as characters present incredible ideas, that seem strangely likely.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
(Note that this is substantially the same review as I wrote for the hardcover edition of the novel)
Greg Bear is a SF writer with an excellent range. While his novels uniformly show a joy in describing unusual and exotic extensions of science as we know it, from the nanotechnology of Blood Music to the unusual physics of Moving Mars, he has always kept the human element front and center in his writings. We care about the people who inhabit his worlds. Darwin's Radio is a story about people and differences. A story about the prejudice of being different, being ostracized, being demonized, being hated and feared. A story of how resistant people are to change, be it changes in scientific theories, changes in what they look like. It much resembles the medical thrillers of Robin Cook. Interestingly enough, there is even a reference to a character reading one of his novels.The plot itself is straightforward enough. SHEVA, an agent lying dormant in our very cells, in our very genes for millions of years, has started to act of its own accord and begun to infect women and men, causing strange pregnancies. Is it a virus? A mutagenic agent? A sign of the end of humanity? Or the mechanism by which the next step in evolution will take place? Several well drawn viewpoint characters, from a discredited anthropologist, to a scientist critical to the discovery of the agent are our windows into this near future world.
Perhaps focused on as much as the science of SHEVA is how the scientists and ordinary people react to its seemingly implacable onslaught. All too plausible to me, as a graduate student of Biology, is the reluctance of academics and ordinary people alike to see the truth for what it is for the mere reason that it contradicts beliefs they hold dear.
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