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Book Review: Darwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear

Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Darwin’s Radio might be the most engaging sci-fi book I’ve read in months or possibly years.

Although I had to fight my inclination to edit the book as I read (Bear gives lots of extraneous details that hinder rather than help, and has some clunky habits), the story was compelling enough to keep me reading at a rapid clip.

In present-day end-of-the-millennium, a massive challenge to the accepted theory of gradual evolution threatens the entire human population’s ability to understand itself. Bear’s managing to take such a high-level view of a medical crisis while focusing on only a few key players is a wonderful feat.

Scientists are by turns thrilled, baffled, supported and challenged, and they don’t have enough time to find answers under intense pressure from a pulsating bureaucracy. Politicians are interested in politics, not as much in science (or they might be interested in science, but sometimes only if it reinforces their career choices). The general public riots and evangelists have an interpretation party.

Given my recent rantings about people’s general inclination to believe what’s convenient even if it contradicts what’s true (see vaccination hysteria), I found this book to be thoroughly engrossing. Science is the clear winner, here.

The characters are compelling, though I wasn’t fully satisfied by the development of some. At times, Bear seemed lazy in his characterizations, and at others he approached the profound. I’d stop there, but I feel I must state this obvious bit: Mr. Bear, there’s not a chance in hell scientist protagonist Kaye Lang would, at any time, look fiercely into the eyes of someone threatening her and correct their address by saying, “It’s *Mrs.* Lang.” It’s Ms. Lang, no doubt. Or, if the correction must be made, it’s *Dr.* Lang.

There’s a sequel I hear isn’t as extraordinary, but I do plan to read it. For now, I enthusiastically recommend Darwin’s Radio to any hard sci-fi fan; anyone interested in evolutionary biology, genetics, anthropology, obstetrics, sociology or mob psychology; and folks who avoid sci-fi because they don’t like spaceships and funny names.

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LisaBurrito

I've added it to my reading list – it can be hard to find good sci fi sometimes, so I'm glad to hear you liked this one. I've been reading a lot of Robert J. Sawyer lately which I like, but I desperately want to edit his books as I go. Interesting plot lines but kind of clunky writing (seems to be a theme among Hugo award winners weirdly).

alef1953

Finally, there was the book that you needed! The world we live is full of hazards: fires, floods, earthquakes, cars that give burst, trains derailed and collided, sinking ships, planes are crashing. How can you escape from them? Following the advice in this book!

“Darwin's Radio” is the first novel I've read from Greg Bear. I am sci-fi fan yet usually those author defined as “hard sci-fi” ones are not my favorites. After reading reviews on this book I decided to give it a try.
Well I was delighted! The only “hard” stuff in the novel is Bear's excellent grip on bioscience (at least for layman as I am). He presents his background “facts” very plausibly, clear and by no means boring.

“Darwin's Radio” is the first novel I've read from Greg Bear. I am sci-fi fan yet usually those author defined as “hard sci-fi” ones are not my favorites. After reading reviews on this book I decided to give it a try.
Well I was delighted! The only “hard” stuff in the novel is Bear's excellent grip on bioscience (at least for layman as I am). He presents his background “facts” very plausibly, clear and by no means boring.

Ron Wooden

I’m reading “Darwin’s Radio” now, and I have to say that I am really enjoying it. Planning on reading the sequel! I wonder if you have ever read any Peter F. Hamilton of Alastair Reynolds?

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