Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Amazon Music Unlimited for Family Shop now Shop Women's Shop Men's
Customer Review

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evolution by jerks?, 15 Oct. 2003
This review is from: Darwin's Radio (Paperback)
For those unfamiliar with evolutionary theories, there are two contesting ideas about the process. One is Charles Darwin's thesis of gradualism - successive generations change imperceptibly until a new species emerges. The other is "punctuated equilibrium" - long periods of stasis interrupted by sudden modifications resulting in new lifeforms. The latter, introduced by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge - Jay Niles in Bear's book - has received a new, fictional boost in this compelling novel. Greg Bear has found out why the rise of modern humans in the paleoanthropological record. It's because a virus-like manifestation of our DNA causes immense changes in the genome. Discovering this, in a world where viruses such as AIDS makes rampant, high-velocity changes in its genome, is a formidable task.
Bear has restored a strong scientific base to "science fiction" where it has languished too often in the hands of the inept. He merges good biology with a strong assessment of a society under extreme stress. The characters are often buffeted by forces inadequately understood. The chief protagonist, Mitch Rafelson, opens the story as an acquisitive villain, his greed tempered by a desire to prove himself a valid researcher. On the feminist side [a must in today's fiction] is Kaye Lang - her married name which takes over forty pages to reveal - is also a scientist. Her work, unblemished, is considered Nobel material. Bringing these two together requires some convoluted machinations, but Bear manages to bring it off after a suicide and bureaucratic ineptness lead to the inevitable. They're an oddly matched couple, but two lonely people in the hands of a talented writer can overcome indominable odds. Especially when confronted by a powerful common enemy.
The story rests on how bureaucracies respond to stress. In this case the stress is dealing with a virus striking only women. Why are so many American [and other nationalities, but we'll get to that later] conceiving but losing embryoes? Worse, why is it happening in tandem, with second pregnancies in many cases not the result of sex? Bear takes us through the workings of many of America's health agencies, their workings and their personnel as the story unfolds. The image is far from encouraging, but not overdrawn. Chris Dicken, a functionary in one of these hierarchical satrapies, is caught up in a search for truth while struggling to maintain his position. Bear draws Dicken as well, if not better, than the rest of his characters. His situation is complicated by his desire for Kaye, and Bear gives us a quality picture of a man beset by immense contradictions. In Dicken, Bear gives us a real picture of hubris, a portrait untrammeled by false ethics or marred by unconvincing powers.
Bear's scientific credentials provide a rare solidity to his fine story line in this book. If there's a flaw, it's in his failure to invoke some mention of world reaction to this phenomenal crisis. Since most of the characters find occasion to watch the news, it's almost astonishing that foreign reaction, particularly in the "Third World" is omitted altogether. What is astounding is his utter failure to relate conditions in Africa. That continent, after all, is the home to modern humanity. Its population contains the highest genetic diversity. If clues were to be found to explain what might be happening in America in the novel, that would be the place to find them. It's a very "American" book, looking deeply inward while ignoring the remainder of the planet. Brief forays into the former Soviet Georgia, Mexico, and, indirectly, Austria don't redeem this flaw.. However, one can forgive this lapse in the face of a gripping story, realistic portrayals and the compelling finale. Bear is worth all his awards. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]


Review Details

Item

Reviewer


Location: Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Top Reviewer Ranking: 110,439