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Strong Ideas Overshadow Weak Execution
on 14 August 2000
One of the most memorably tongue-in-cheek creations of Douglas Adams was a madness booth--designed to make its victims insane, simply and effectively, by displaying them "to-scale" beside the rest of the cosmos.
In many ways, it's the same trick Bear's best novels play on a reader's mind, forever putting it in contexts too vast to afford the thing any significance at all: "Queen of Angels" concerns a therapist who literally delves into his patients' subconscious, while "Eon" and its sequel plunge characters into an infinite number of alternate universes.
"Blood Music" represents yet another disturbing tour of an alarming theoretical Bearscape--that of an earth whose population has, after a singular biological catastrophe, come to share the same vaguely protoplasmic, continent-sized body.
It could do with a sense of tone, a touch of poetic irony, a memorable character or two, and perhaps even a dollop of Barthelmian humor, but the central idea itself is so unquestionably remarkable that the novel's trashy-ness is, for once, actually overwhelmed by its ambition.
Like it or not, you will be thinking about "Blood Music" long after you put it down. And you should definitely pick it up.